Mexico cautiously optimistic about finalizing USMCA ‘next week’

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OTTAWA, Nov 30, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Mexico’s trade negotiator said Friday he
was cautiously optimistic about finalizing a new North American trade pact as
soon as next week, after meeting with Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau
in Ottawa.

Negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada signed a deal last
year on a new treaty to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), but only Mexico ratified the accord.

“If the amendments are acceptable, are improvements, there’s no reason why
we should not be shaking hands next week” on the rebranded US-Mexico-Canada
Agreement (USMCA), Undersecretary for North America Jesus Seade told
reporters.

His meeting with Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland
focused on changes to the accord as well as side deals requested by the
United States.

Democrats in Washington and US labor representatives had previously raised
concerns about the treaty, looking for stronger guarantees that new Mexican
labor laws will be enforced, among other issues.

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the Democrat-controlled US House of
Representatives, echoed Seade’s sentiments Monday, stating that an agreement
was “within range.

Earlier this month she stated that she would like to get the accord
approved this year.

“With a lot of discipline, legislators in each country (could ratify the
accord) by the end of the year,” Seade said.

But “if there’s something complicated that needs to be discussed and we
have to again go back to (US) Democratic legislators and all that, then it
could take more time and (go) into next year.”

Trudeau said at the start of their meeting Friday that “we know there’s
still a little more work to do.”

Seade said Pelosi’s request for reworking the agreement in the areas of
labor, environment, dispute settlement and pharmaceuticals were “valid
views.”

A red line for Mexico, however, might be on enforcement: “We would not
accept Lone Ranger inspectors… in (Mexican) factories,” he said.

Ottawa has said it would ratify the agreement in lockstep with Washington.