On Friday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he had sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to work toward the approval of USMCA , a new North American trade deal between the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Speaking at a regular news conference, López Obrador said he was encouraged that U.S. Democratic lawmakers were concerned about the working conditions of Mexican workers following a visit by a U.S. congressional delegation to Mexico this week.
“There’s agreement, and I took the opportunity to send Mrs. Pelosi a letter explaining that it’s in the interest of the three peoples, the three nations, that this deal is approved,” he said, referring to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement .
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the leader of a U.S. congressional delegation to Mexico said that Mexico must take more concrete steps to implement its labor reform , after a trip aimed at speeding up the ratification of the new North American free trade deal.
López Obrador has vowed union freedoms , higher wages , and other labor rights in his bid to assuage the concerns of U.S. congressional Democrats, who hold the key to ratifying USMCA.
But as he concluded his visit to Mexico, Richard E. Neal, who leads the Ways and Means Committee in the United States’ lower house of Congress, suggested Democrats were still not satisfied.
“Our meeting with President López Obrador shed further light on the Mexican government’s desire and intentions to carry out its labor justice reform , but the United States needs to see those assurances put into action,” Neal said in a statement.
It was unclear precisely what steps Neal would like to see.
During its time in Mexico, the U.S. delegation zeroed in on the labor reform passed by López Obrador’s left-leaning government last year, examining the funding set aside to implement the law, according to the statement.
USMCA, which would replace the USD $1 trillion NAFTA , risks getting bogged down in the 2020 U.S. presidential election race if U.S. lawmakers do not ratify it soon.
The deal was negotiated last year after U.S. President Donald Trump said the existing North American Free Trade Agreement was unfavorable to U.S workers and businesses.
López Obrador called for ratification as soon as possible in his morning news conference ahead of the meeting and pledged to enforce the labor reform .
“The reform is so that ... workers can freely choose their representatives, and so there is union democracy and better wages,” he said.
After the meeting, Jesús Seade , Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, said he expected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move ahead with the USMCA by early November .
Seade has been leading negotiations with U.S. officials seeking to placate Democratic concerns about enforcement in the new deal.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley
and Representative Kevin Brady , the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, urged Democrats to move quickly.
“With election year politics upon us, time isn’t on our side. But the window of opportunity hasn’t closed yet. Democrats must act now,” they said in a joint statement.
has already approved the deal. It also needs ratification from Canadian lawmakers.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard
told reporters the next three weeks would be a “decisive phase” for the pact, and that officials would send U.S. lawmakers a document next week detailing the issues discussed on Tuesday, including Mexico’s labor reform.
An impeachment inquiry into Trump, which some fear could further delay passage of the USMCA, was not discussed with the delegation, Seade said. Seade has previously taken the view that the inquiry should, in fact, spur lawmakers to act on USMCA, and Pelosi has said it should not obstruct the deal.
On Tuesday, U.S. trade groups pressed lawmakers to approve the deal and not allow the inquiry to postpone it.
, chief lobbyist for the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association , said the industry had delayed key investments given continued uncertainty a year after the agreement was signed by the three countries’ leaders.
“ We don’t have time to waste . We need to get it done,” she said.
Democrats are seeking better mechanisms in the trade agreement to ensure enforcement of labor and environmental provisions . One measure under consideration is providing aid to Mexico to beef up enforcement of labor rules.
U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell
, another member of the delegation to Mexico, suggested all sides were getting closer to an agreement.
“We’ve all got to get our act together, and we’re moving, we’re making progress ,” he told Reuters after the meeting with López Obrador.