The United States will not send “labor inspectors” to Mexico to ensure compliance with the new North American trade agreement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a letter responding to concerns from the Mexican government.
Addressed to Mexico’s chief negotiator, Jesús Seade, Lighthizer wrote that the U.S. government included language in the implementing legislation sent to Congress that authorizes up to five attachés from the Department of Labor to work with Mexican officials, workers and civil society groups on the implementation of Mexican labor reform.
The attachés will provide technical assistance and disburse capacity building funds, he said.
“These personnel will not be ‘labor inspectors’ and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws,” Lighthizer wrote.
The trade representative added that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) “allows an independent, three-person panel chosen by both parties to request on-site verifications in any of our three countries when there are good faith questions about whether workers at a particular facility are being denied key labor rights.”
Lighthizer stressed that “those verifications will be conducted by the independent panelists not by the labor attachés.”
The new trade pact is a “great agreement” for the United States and Mexico, he wrote. “I look forward to working with you and your colleagues to ensure that the agreement enters into force as quickly as possible.”
The letter comes after Seade accused the United States of preparing USMCA legislation that didn’t reflect the modified trade agreement signed by Mexican, Canadian and U.S. officials last week.
The Secretariat of Foreign Affairs said that it could reject any U.S. diplomats posted to carry out inspections because the accreditation of labor attachés can only proceed with the consent of the host country.
Seade told a press conference on Monday that the United States has now “perfectly” clarified its intention with regard to supervision of labor laws in Mexico.
In a Twitter post, he reiterated that Mexico will never allow labor inspectors to operate in Mexican workplaces.
Mexico News Daily