Mexico sets condition to accept US steel demand in trade deal

Chrystia Freeland

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The Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said today that Mexico would accept a USA proposal regulating steel in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but only if the rule took effect at least five years after the pact's ratification, according to a Reuters news.

A deal on amending the new North American free trade agreement appears close following a busy weekend, with hopes Canada, Mexico and the United States will approve a rewritten deal in the next 24 hours.

Ebrard reiterated the Mexican government's rejection of that proposal, but said Mexico would allow panels composed of experts and a third party to review labor standards.

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"I'm confident this is going to be resolved, but we're working on it to get the best deal", Seade said, adding he had been in touch with Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

A US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer had demanded in the last minute there be a revision in the definition of what classifies North American steel. California Representative Jimmy Gomez, a member of House Democratic negotiating team, said last week that Pelosi and Lighthizer have offered Mexico a compromise on labour enforcement that "respects Mexico's sovereignty".

The steel-related dispute with Mexico cropped up when the USA trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, demanded revision of the definition of "what should constitute North American steel" based on the rules of origin in the automotive sector.

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Democrats have sought to include labor and environmental rights requirements in the Nafta replacement agreement. His union, which represents 12 million US workers, opposes NAFTA and blames it for destroying millions of American jobs. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has urged Democrats in recent weeks to hold out until stronger labor provisions are secured.

Steel has also emerged as a point of contention. It wasn't clear if he was referring to the trade deal or the economy. "If she doesn't move quickly, it will collapse!"

The administration has been pushing for a House vote on the new U.S. -Mexico-Canada Agreement before the end of this year to avoid seeing the deal swallowed by 2020 campaign pressures. The president has threatened to impose a 15% import tax on some $160 billion in imports from China including smartphones, laptops and toys if he does reach an interim deal with China.

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