Mexico ratifies USMCA trade deal

by Ike Obudulu Posted on June 19th, 2019

Mexico’s Senate on Wednesday passed the USMCA, making it the first country to ratify the new North American trade pact.

“USMCA passes! Mexico goes first with clear signal that our economy is open,” Jesús Seade, Mexico’s undersecretary for foreign affairs, wrote on Twitter.

“We’re confident that our partners will soon do the same,” Seade added.

Passage in Mexico comes less than three weeks after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration submitted the required texts for Mexican lawmakers to approve the deal. The Mexican leader was forced to call an extraordinary session to consider the deal after it broke off for recess at the end of April.

Mexico’s Senate passed it in a 114-4 vote. Three lawmakers abstained from voting on the pact.

López Obrador repeatedly expressed confidence that the deal would pass, despite the drama that ensued after President Donald Trump’s recent threat to impose punitive tariffs over migration issues. The leftist López Obrador has long sought to get USMCA quickly approved to remove uncertainty for Mexican investors and focus on domestic priorities.

Multiple Mexican senators expressed concern over Trump’s unpredictability and attacks on the U.S.’ southern neighbor, but still offered support for the deal as a way to provide economic stability for Mexicans.

“The USMCA is synonymous with opportunity in the short and long term,” Sen. Verónica Martínez García, secretary of the Senate’s Economy Commission, said on the Senate floor.

The move is welcome news for the Trump administration as it pushes for the U.S. Congress to approve the deal this summer. But Democrats have said they will not be rushed into passing the deal until the administration makes changes to the agreement’s provisions on enforcement, labor, the environment and drug pricing.

That means it’s possible that the text Mexico just approved is not what the final agreement will look like.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made clear that changes to strengthen enforcement of the deal must be made in the underlying text of the deal. Any renegotiation of the terms in the USMCA would require sign-off from Mexico and Canada.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers this week that “there’s room“ to bolster enforcement of the agreement. He also emphasized he would work with Democrats to address their other concerns.

Beyond USMCA, Mexico still must implement its major labor reform law. Pelosi has said she wants to see how the country enforces the landmark law it passed in late April. Democrats and labor unions have expressed concern that Mexico overpromised and does not have the resources to deliver on its promised labor changes required under the new pact.

Canada, for its part, has already introduced an implementation bill in the country’s Parliament. But Canadian officials have expressed a desire to approve the deal at roughly the same time as any final votes are held in the U.S. Congress.

“Our plan is to move forward in tandem with the U.S. We think of it as a kind of Goldilocks approach. Not too hot, not too cold. We’re not moving too fast, not moving too slow,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said last week.

Image: Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto (L) US President Donald Trump (C) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sign a new free trade agreement in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018, on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

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