Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador vowed in writing Thursday to pursue the labor reforms that House Democrats say are crucial if they are to support President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement on trade.
Democrats welcomed Mexico’s pledge on the trade deal, which would replace the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Our government is committed to the labor policy and I am absolutely certain that we will carry it out as described,” López Obrador said in the letter, which was addressed to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts. The letter explained in detail the provisions in the Mexican government’s budget that would underwrite the policy changes and included promises to uphold labor rights and boost the Mexican minimum wage.
Talks over the USMCA deal had been stalled for months primarily over the Mexico labor issue. Democrats had repeatedly told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the Trump administration’s point man on the issue, that they needed better assurances that Mexico would follow through with USMCA’s requirements. Democrats traveled to Mexico last week to address the concerns to López Obrador in person.
Neal hailed Thursday’s letter, indicating it had addressed many of those concerns. “I’m very pleased with Mexico’s demonstration of good faith and with the details President López Obrador has shared regarding Mexico’s plans and strategy for implementation,” he said. “Given the high labor and enforcement standards Democrats require from the new NAFTA agreement, I am eager to receive further details from USTR regarding the Trump Administration’s preparation to meet our priorities.”
U.S. unions and their Democratic allies have contended that Mexico’s labor law system has long been corrupt. The government made it easy for businesses to interfere in labor elections, they argue, resulting in sham unions that support management over workers. Labor reforms Mexico passed in May as part of the USMCA deal were intended to end this problem. The reforms include a requirement that union representatives be elected by secret ballot, a policy that is designed to ensure that workers vote free of management influence or coercion, as well as requirements that existing union contracts be renegotiated. Democrats nevertheless feared the reform would not be enforced.
López Obrador said the reforms are “underway today” and “implementation will be complete in four years.”
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