U.S. Democrats Want To Audit Mexican Factories to Approve USMCA

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Dec 5 2019

Democratic lawmakers propose to expand Mexico’s newly approved Labor Reform so that the U.S. can directly audit companies in Mexico.

MEXICO — U.S. Democrats from the Ways and Means committee flew to Mexico to meet with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to renegotiate reopening the Free Trade Agreement USMCA. The USMCA has been already negotiated with the Trump administration and approved by the Mexican Congress last May.

It has shocked and upset Mexican corporations who find the Democrats’ new conditions to be strange and a violation of Mexican sovereignty. They believe this will give unprecedented control of Mexican unions to U.S. corporations, and will also scare away investment in Mexico.

The explanation Democrats give as to why they want this as a condition, they say it’s because they want to make sure Mexican union workers can be paid decent wage, with no violations in the Mexican workplace, and that their unions can have democratically elected union leaders. Thus, they say to look for a guarantee in the USMCA in regards to Mexican labor matters.

The measure to give control of Unions to U.S. representatives was described as unacceptable by the Mexican business sector that say democrats are using the USMCA to gain political points for the 2020 elections. The request was proposed by Senators Sherrod Brown from Ohio and Ron Wyden from Oregon.

Senator Brown has been a vocal supporter of nationwide union protests against General Motors.

“Ten years ago, taxpayers saved this [GM] company. It was in bankruptcy, we all know … workers did a whole bunch of give-backs,” Mr. Brown said. “Then we see a huge tax cut that GM executives got and this company got, and then we see them move more production to Mexico, and workers are just saying, ‘It’s our turn.’”

The UAW-GM picket line has been a popular photo-op for Democrats, while Republicans have largely steered clear of the walkout. Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourke have all made stops at picket lines in Ohio and Michigan union protests.

Back in 2017, the largest unions in the United States ran a campaign to replace NAFTA. The campaign was supported by Public Citizen, Citizens Trade Campaign, and the Sierra Club. The AFL-CIO, which is the largest federation of labor unions in the country, also supports the effort.

Trump since then started the process of renegotiating NAFTA which concluded successfully early this year. The new trade deal includes the newly-passed Mexican labor reform which received almost no opposition by the Mexican congress.

Trump gave it the green light and it was a go, but Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats put a hold on voting for the new NAFTA, now renamed USMCA or T-MEC in spanish.

One of the main criticisms by the Democratic wing in the treaty ratification process between Mexico, the United States and Canada (USMCA) has been the lack of guarantees for the fulfillment of labor agreements in Mexico.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he is known, says the mexican congress passed an unprecedented labor reform at the start of 2019, a labor reform with strong labor rights “that not even the U.S. has for American workers,” AMLO said.

AMLO’s Labor reform passed in the Mexican congress and Senate unanimously. It increased the minimum wage by 18% and doubled in the north of Mexico. It also allows union workers to have private voting rights; therefore, it guarantees workers a democratic process when choosing their union leaders.

Mexican journalist and geo-political commentator, Nacho Rodrigez, points out the comparison between Mexico and the U.S.. He mentions that many union leaders in the United States don’t have much of a democratic process, in that their leadership re-appointments are never contested.

“It’s true that union democracy is needed since some union leaders used to have eternal terms, like Mexican Pemex petroleum leader Romero Deschamps, but why U.S. democrats are so strongly involved

in reinforcing Mexico’s union laws? Why so much interest in discussing the Labor Reform? I mean, they don’t talk about the environment, intellectual property, and don’t even talk about the energy or pharmaceutical topics. And the irony is that this man, Richard Trumka, Union leader of AFL-CIO, one the largest federation of unions in the United States, enjoys a job in perpetuity for the last 12 years. The last time Mr.Trumka ran, he was elected unopposed and that is not so democratic.” said Mr. Rodriguez.

At a press conference, the Mexican President said he will be sending a letter to Nancy Pelosi about the agreement,

“I would propose this [on the letter] and also ask that, in a respectful manner, to make sure the agreement is secured promptly so that this important event, favorably to the economy of the three countries, does not get mixed and contaminated with the electoral process that’s taking place in the United States.”

Pelosi was also putting pressure on Mexico to accept other additional terms, including approving a pipeline contract from Texas to Mexico that was under legal dispute between the Mexican Government, iNova along with TransCanada. Mexico disputed the contract as abusive with high fees and terms that were negotiated before AMLO’s administration began. That dispute was positively resolved last July.

Democratic committees flew to Mexico several times during this year to negotiate the trade deal, but there doesn’t seem to be a proposal on the table that Mexicans can agree on. They say they do not want American policymakers involved in the National affairs that violate Mexican sovereignty.

The U.S. senators suggested Mexico allow U.S. inspectors go into Mexican companies where there might be complaints of labor rights violations.

“This is unacceptable, that’s not contemplated as part of the Treaty. Mexico, through the reforms recently enacted in labor matters, complies with all the commitments acquired to sign the T-MEC and that is what we are willing to do, “said Eugenio Salinas, president of the Mexican Concamin Foreign Trade Commission.

He explained that meetings can be held between union leaders within the country, but the review will not become an obligation.

“Representatives can come, as it already exists, to a series of events and conferences where union leaders from different countries meet in Mexico, but not as an obligation (audit) or an imposition,” he said.

Salinas rejects forcing the Government of Mexico to order companies to be audited, especially under a free market economic model.

Last May, the labor reform was approved by Mexicos’ Congress with 120 votes in favor and two abstentions, and was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF), in which Mexico fulfills its commitments made with the signing of the USMCA, which among other aspects, grants the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

On their last visit to Mexico in October, democrats announced they won’t vote on the USMCA until they see results on Mexico’s Labor Reform. “If violating Mexico’s sovereignty is their bargaining chip, then the trade agreement will stay in limbo, since Mexico won’t accept those terms said Marco Perez.”

Foreight secretary Marcelo Ebrard recently said that if the free trade doesn’t go true, then the old trade will stay and continue for now.

Sources:

Reforma

House Democrats Won’t Accept USMCA In Its Present Form

Labor Unions Urge Lawmakers to End NAFTA

https://www.zocalo.com.mx/reforma/detail/quiere-eu-auditar-fabricas-en-mexico

https://www.brown.senate.gov/newsroom/in-the-news/article/democrats-offer-support-to-striking-gm-worker

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