Mexico disputes language in US bill on ratifying trade pact

MEXICO CITY — Just days after a landmark agreement on a trade pact to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico objected Saturday to legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress as part of an eventual ratification of the deal.

Jesus Seade, the Mexican Foreign Relations Department's undersecretary and chief trade negotiator for North America, said most of the bill is in line with the typical process of ratification, but it also "adds the designation of up to five U.S. labour attaches in Mexico tasked with monitoring the implementation of the labour reform that is under way in our country."

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Seade said that was not part of the agreement signed Dec. 10 in Mexico City by Mexico, the United States and Canada to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, but was rather the product of "political decisions by the congress and administration of the United States."

That should have been consulted with the country but was not, Seade said — "and, of course, we are not in agreement."

Mexico says it resisted the idea of having foreign inspectors on its soil out of sovereignty principles, and that the agreement provided for panels to resolve disputes on labour and other areas. The three-person panels would comprise a person chosen by the United States, one by Mexico and a third-country person agreed upon by both countries.

Seade called the designation of labour attaches "unnecessary and redundant" and said the presence of foreign officials must be authorized by the host country.

"U.S. officials accredited at their embassy and consulates in Mexico, as a labour attache could be, may not in any case have inspection powers under Mexican law," he added.

Seade said he sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressing Mexico’s "surprise and concern" over the matter and that he would travel to Washington on Sunday to convey the message personally to Lighthizer and U.S. lawmakers.

The elements of House Resolution 5430 in question "display a regrettable mistrust" in the treaty which was negotiated "in the spirit of good faith," the letter read.

"We reserve the right to review the scope and effects of these provisions, which our government and people will no doubt clearly see as unnecessary," it continued. "Additionally, I advise you that Mexico will evaluate not only the measures proposed in the (bill) ... but the establishment of reciprocal mechanisms in defence of our country’s interests."

Mexico's Senate approved the modifications to the agreement Thursday evening by a vote of 107-1.

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