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Negotiators from the three trading partners at a meeting last week in Washington. Negotiators from the three trading partners at a meeting last week in Washington.

Revised trade deal close; US, Canadian negotiators traveling to Mexico City

3 countries set to sign off on revisions to the USMCA, which replaces NAFTA

Mexican officials will meet with negotiators from the United States and Canada in Mexico City on Tuesday to work on the final changes to the new North American free trade agreement.

Economy Secretary Graciela Márquez, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, foreign affairs undersecretary for North America Jesús Seade and Ambassador to the United States Martha Bárcena are to meet with a U.S. delegation led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner and a Canadian team headed by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

According to the news agency Bloomberg, the three countries have reached an agreement to make changes to the text of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the form of an addendum, and a ratification vote could be held in the U.S. Congress as soon as next week.

President López Obrador told reporters on Tuesday morning that negotiators from the three countries will sign off on the changes today.

Mexico and the United States have engaged in recent days in intense negotiations over potential changes to clauses on labor enforcement, steel and aluminum, biologic drugs and internet services, the news agency Reuters reported.

López Obrador last week rejected a proposal that would allow the United States to carry out inspections of Mexican businesses to ensure compliance with new labor laws including legislation that guarantees free and secret ballots for the election of union leaders.

He said on Monday that U.S. officials had accepted Mexico’s proposal to establish dispute resolution panels to review labor law compliance.

Ebrard said that a U.S. proposal that stipulates that 70% of steel used in automaking must be “melted and poured” in North America could be included in the trade pact addendum but stressed that Mexico won’t accept such a rule for aluminum because Mexico lacks any production of the metal.

In the United States, Democrats in the House of Representatives have reached a preliminary deal with trade unions and the White House on a revised version of the USMCA, according to the Associated Press.

However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has the authority to bring on a lower house vote on the USMCA, said Monday that a deal to finalize the trade pact was “not quite finished yet” but “within range.”

Lawmakers from both the Democrat and Republican parties say that ratification of the pact would be more difficult next year because the presidential election campaign will be in full swing and U.S. President Donald Trump could face an impeachment hearing.

For his part, Trump told reporters Monday that he was hearing “very good things” about the USMCA and that “a lot of strides” had been made in the negotiations.

“. . . I’m hearing from unions and others that it’s looking good and I hope they put it up to a vote and if they put it up to a vote it’s going to pass, a lot of Democrats want to pass it too and we look forward to that . . . It’s replacing probably the worst trade deal ever made, which was NAFTA, and this is one of the best trade deals ever made for our country . . .” he said.

Secretary Márquez said Monday that the Mexican Senate – which approved the USMCA in June – will have the opportunity to review the addendum and will be required to pass it before the trilateral trade pact can take effect.

She predicted that the United States will ratify the new trade agreement by December 20 and that it will come into force in the first half of next year.

The USMCA, which is to replace the almost 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, sets out rules for trade between Mexico, the Unites States and Canada that is worth US $1.2 trillion annually.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Milenio (sp), Reuters (en), The Associated Press (en) 

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