Mexico president urges U.S. to ratify new NAFTA after labor bill passes

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday urged U.S. lawmakers to ratify a revamped North American trade pact a day after the Mexican Senate paved the way by passing a bill to strengthen the rights of trade unions.

The leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada signed the trade agreement at the end of November after a long negotiation, but it requires ratification in each country’s legislature to take effect and replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in force since 1994.

“When the labor reform is approved, two purposes are accomplished: the main one is that it benefits Mexican workers... but it also fulfills the commitment that was made with the government of the United States,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily morning press conference.

“Now it is up to the U.S. government, the U.S. legislators, to finish approving the free trade agreement,” he added. “We are fulfilling (our obligations) and we want that free trade agreement with the United States and Canada.”

U.S. Democratic lawmakers have said the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) must ensure workers in Mexico have the right to unionize, a step that requires new labor laws.

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives, has said that U.S. lawmakers should not endorse any agreement to replace NAFTA unless Mexico passed a law to protect labor rights.

On Monday, the Mexican Senate approved a reform that enshrines the right of Mexican workers to organize and gives them more control over their contracts.

The bill, which was passed by the lower house earlier in April, aligns Mexico with international treaties, according to Mexican lawmakers. It awaits the signature of the president to enter into force.

Reporting by Diego Ore; Editing by David Gregorio