U.S. Stresses Worker Rights, Investment Respect With Mexico

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The U.S., Mexico and Canada on Monday discussed workers’ rights and protections for energy investment and the environment in Latin America’s second-largest economy.

On the first day of an annual meeting to review their trade pact, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier talked about the importance for Mexico to continue its labor overhaul, Tai’s office said in a statement.

Tai also emphasized the importance for Mexico to adopt an energy policy that respects U.S. investment and is consistent with efforts to tackle climate change, USTR said.

The meeting of the Free Trade Commission began on Monday afternoon and continues on Tuesday. The virtual summit comes six weeks before the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s entry into force.

U.S. Stresses Worker Rights, Investment Respect With Mexico

Attention on labor issues increased last week after the U.S. asked Mexico, under the deal’s rapid-response mechanism, to review whether employees at a General Motors Co. facility are being denied their rights. The AFL-CIO filed another complaint. Mexico responded by raising concerns about conditions for workers in the U.S. agriculture and meat packing sectors.

President Joe Biden’s administration has a number of concerns about Mexico’s performance and commitment to the trade deal that it plans to discuss, and it’s vowed to use all available tools to make sure that Mexico and Canada live up to their promises in the deal, Tai said last month.

Tai is playing a key role in setting and implementing Biden’s trade policy, which they both have promised to focus on workers and the middle class.

“The tools that are in the USMCA are in there for a reason,” Tai told House members at a hearing last week. “They were to make the Nafta better, and they are to make this agreement work. And we must use those tools because we have them and because, frankly, we are committed to our partnership.” Tai was referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Environment Issues

In the meeting with Mexico, Tai also underlined the importance of science- and risk-based regulatory approaches in agriculture; market access for U.S. fresh potatoes; the need for Mexico to restart authorizations of agricultural biotechnology products. With Canada, Tai expressed concern about the nation’s recently-proposed digital services tax and also discussed softwood lumber, USTR said.

Mexico said in a statement that it also discussed with the U.S. the rules of origin for production for the automotive industry, access for Mexican cross-border truckers, and U.S. probes of Mexican agriculture exports.

The USMCA environment committee will hold its first meeting on June 17, the U.S. said Monday.

The U.S. has faced pressure from the energy industry, which says Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is discriminating against U.S. companies. AMLO, as the president is known, supported major changes to an electricity law and hydrocarbons law to change market rules to favor state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos and electric utility Comision Federal de Electricidad over private firms.

Even as the U.S. presses Mexico on rules for trade, Biden needs Mexico’s help in stopping undocumented migrants from Central America and Mexico’s own citizens from crossing the border into the U.S. Apprehensions climbed to more than 178,000 in April, the highest level in two decades, driven by violence, food shortages, natural disasters and Covid-19’s economic damage.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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