AP NEWS

Mexico: Trade pact with US, Canada needs to pass this year

May 3, 2019
FILE - In this April 4, 2019 file photo, Mexico Undersecretary for North America in Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affair's Jesus Seade speaks during a news conference at the Mexican Embassy in Washington. Seade told the AP in a Friday, May 5 interview, that his team will launch a new lobbying effort to answer question from U.S. Demoncratic congressmen. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mexico fears that the chances for a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement will diminish substantially if U.S. Congress does not ratify it this year, a key trade negotiator said Friday.

Jesus Seade, the Mexican undersecretary for North America, told The Associated Press his team will launch a renewed communications effort to address objections to the pact known as USMCA raised mostly by Democrats in Congress.

“Everything needs to get done this year. It is viable. I am optimistic,” he said. “It seems obvious to us that USMCA is a win-win.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will only bring the ratification to a vote after Mexico implements a labor reform aimed at ensuring workers can freely vote for their union representation and contracts.

But Seade warned that waiting for full implementation could take years.

“If we are committing to something we have to take each other at face value, not wait to see results,” he added.

Seade said the reservations by some Democrats are mainly about the labor issue, but also about intellectual property rights and medicines.

Mexico wants the USMCA to be ratified by the U.S. Congress but if that does not happen there is no reason to break the old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, he said.

“If this gets delayed, we keep NAFTA,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of NAFTA if Congress won’t go along, trying to force a choice between this new version over the old version.

Seade said in the absence of a new deal both countries would lose badly, even creating a financial crisis in Mexico that could severely hurt people below the poverty line.

Seade also said Washington must lift steel and aluminum tariffs against Mexico before Congress considers the trade deal and expressed opposition to any kind of quota system.

On Friday, he held the first conversation with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the topic.

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AP Economic Writer Paul Wiseman contributed to this story in Washington.

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Luis Alonso Lugo on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo