November 25, 2019 / 2:57 PM / 10 days ago

Mexico steps up pressure on U.S. Congress to approve trade deal

MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexico’s government on Monday ramped up pressure on Democratic lawmakers to approve a new North American trade deal, urging U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push it through Congress and rejecting demands for greater labor market oversight.

FILE PHOTO: Trucks wait in a long queue for border customs control to cross into the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would this week send another letter to Pelosi, a Democrat, pressing for the ratification of the three-nation deal agreed last year known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“I’m sure that Mrs Pelosi and the lawmakers of the Democratic Party are going to help us,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference, saying he believed Congress would approve the deal before the end of 2019.

Mexico also wrote Pelosi last month.

Several U.S. business executives and congressional aides said Monday it is increasingly unlikely Congress will approve USMCA before January.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said, “Pelosi should put it up for a vote because, at some point pretty soon, you’re going to have Canada and you’re going have Mexico say, ‘What’s going on? Send the agreement back. Let’s not make the deal.’ And I wouldn’t blame them at all.”

Pelosi’s office did not immediately comment.

Standing alongside Lopez Obrador, Jesus Seade, deputy foreign minister for North America and the Mexican official in charge of USMCA negotiations, said he was “pessimistic” the accord would be approved by U.S. lawmakers before 2020.

“Far from reaching a deal, in the last two weeks, statements from certain labor sectors have re-emerged, floating ideas that would be totally unacceptable to Mexico,” Seade said.

Mexico, which ratified the USMCA, is eager for approval because the country’s exports and foreign direct investment are heavily dependent on having unfettered access to the U.S. marketplace.

U.S. lawmakers have held up approval over concerns lower-cost Mexico will continue to be able to attract investment at the expense of U.S. workers.

Lopez Obrador’s left-leaning government pledged to improve workers’ pay, and earlier this year pushed through a labor bill that will strengthen the rights of trade unions.

The president, Seade and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard all underlined that Mexico had fulfilled its commitments under the USMCA framework as they urged Congress to pass the deal.

Among the sticking points were U.S. attempts to establish dispute panels for labor, Seade said. Mexico’s position is panels should be allowed across the board, not for specific areas.

FILE PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a media briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Enforcement remained a bone of contention, Seade said, noting that there were those on the U.S. side seeking to impose “more intrusive” mechanisms to bind Mexico.

“We told them we won’t accept that,” he said.

The USMCA was agreed after a lengthy negotiation to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Reporting by Dave Graham and David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Cynthia Osterman

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