November 27, 2019 / 7:00 PM / 19 days ago

Top Mexican official floats prospect of labor tweak for continental trade deal

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's Deputy Foreign Minister for North America Jesus Seade looks on during the signing of a letter of interest to support critical energy Infrastructure in Southern Mexico, in Mexico City, Mexico November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Luis Cortes

(Reuters) - Adjustments could be made to how labor disputes are handled in the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal to help push through its ratification in the United States, Mexican deputy foreign minister Jesus Seade said on Wednesday.

Seade, the Mexican official in charge of USMCA negotiations, told reporters the three countries were moving toward a deal. He was visiting Washington for talks with U.S. officials.

“There may be some adjustments that we can do on special treatment of labor disputes, but without going outside the normal territory of a good trade agreement,” Seade said.

He added he had a positive telephone call with Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland flew to Washington on Wednesday for talks with U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer. After the meeting she sidestepped questions as to how long the process to ratify the USMCA in all three countries could last.

“These negotiations always take as long as they take,” she told reporters. “Today, from the Canadian perspective, was a good meeting. Good work is being done.”

A Canadian government official, who requested anonymity, said before the meeting that “we are encouraged, absolutely, by where the conversations are at this point”. Canada has yet to ratify the deal.

Mexico, which formally approved the USMCA earlier this year, has been pressing U.S. lawmakers to back the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which underpins most of Mexico’s exports and foreign investment.

Writing by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Grant McCool

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