Labor leader to visit Mexico to discuss trade deal

Greg Nash

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will lead a delegation to Mexico to discuss a path forward on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), President Trump’s update to the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“The proposed replacement still falls short of what we need,” Trumka said Thursday morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C. “We want to get to yes.”

The delegation, which heads to Mexico next Wednesday, will focus on enforcement and labor issues, which are among the key obstacles Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has identified.

The USMCA has been one of Trump’s signature achievements as president, and its passage through Congress would allow him to claim victory on a major campaign promise ahead of the 2020 election.

Trumka said on Thursday that Mexico needs to prove that it has the will and wherewithal to change its labor laws as required in the agreement. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, he said, was a friend of labor, but needed to prove that he could take on entrenched interests and legal challenges to reform.

Other major issues, Trumka said, were arbitration mechanisms and rules that could block trade in the event of a dispute.

House Democrats have indicated that there could be room to pass the agreement in the fall if reforms are made, and have praised U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for his efforts in working with them. But they’ve also said they have yet to see significant changes that would mollify their concerns.

Trumka, who lambasted Trump’s record on labor issues, on Thursday gave him rare praise for the attempt to retool the trade agreement.

“He at least had the willingness to take on NAFTA. That was the worst agreement that ever happened,” Trumka said.

Tags Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi Robert Lighthizer

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