Mexico’s president urges US Congress to approve USMCA trade deal

A handout picture provided by the Mexican Presidency, shows the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, while speaks during a press conference in Mexico City, Mexico, on 30 April 2019. EPA-EFE/Salul Lopez /Presidency/EDITORIAL USE ONLY

MEXICO CITY.- President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that Mexico had kept its promise to approve labor reforms and urged the US Congress to ratify the newly renegotiated USMCA trade accord designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the US, Mexico and Canada.

«We said we were going to approve the reforms and we did, now it’s time for the US government and US legislators to approve the free trade agreement,» Lopez Obrador said during his daily press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City

Lopez Obrador congratulated the Senate for approving the labor reforms on Monday, a step that Washington had asked for as a condition for ratifying the USMCA.

The president said that the new legislation sought to guarantee workers their right to elect labor union representatives.

«Union leaders shouldn’t be imposed, they should be elected by the workers with union democracy. Before, workers couldn’t vote freely and anonymously for their representatives,» Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said.

Lopez Obrador, the founder and leader of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), called the labor reforms «a great step forward for the workers of Mexico.»

AMLO praised the fact that the reforms had the support of the business community and labor unions, noting that the legislation’s approval «fulfills the commitment made to the US to sign the free trade agreement.»

Jesus Seade, Lopez Obrador’s representative at the USMCA negotiations, said the labor reforms also complied with the requirements of the International Labor Organization (ILO), which has criticized the «union situation in Mexico» for 25 years.

The reforms introduce a new system for the administration of labor law and union democracy, complying with Mexico’s obligations under the USMCA.

The reforms, approved on a vote of 120-2, opens the way for the elimination of the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards and the creation of special labor courts, as well as union democracy, allowing workers to elect leaders with a direct and secret vote.

The legislation, which had already been approved by the lower house of Congress, now goes to the president for his signature.

In early April, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic-controlled chamber would not ratify the USMCA until Mexico enacted labor law reforms.

The renegotiation of NAFTA began with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House in 2017.

Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was in office from 2012 to 2018, brought the trade negotiations to an end on Nov. 30, his last day in office, with the approval of AMLO, who took office on Dec. 1.

Lopez Obrador said on April 4 that his administration did not want to give anyone a reason to scrap the trade deal among Mexico, the US and Canada.

«We do not want any reason to reopen the treaty negotiations, we believe that it is not in the country’s interest,» the president said Tuesday.

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