WTO chief sees difficult road for trade liberalization

April 4, 2019
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2019, file photo, Border Patrol agent Vincent Pirro looks on near a border wall that separates the cities of Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, in San Diego. A surge in family arrivals, largely from Guatemala and Honduras, has led Border Patrol agents to shift attention from preparing criminal cases to caring for children. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The World Trade Organization sees a “challenging” and “difficult” road ahead for international trade liberalization due to the current political climate.

WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo said Thursday he’s confident Mexico and the United States can sort out their current trade difficulties, which include a border-crossing slowdown, U.S. threats to close the border and the still-pending ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

But the fight to expand free trade “is going to be challenging, is going to be difficult, above all because of the political conditions we have in the world today.”

Mexico’s Economy Secretary Graciela Márquez said a labor reform bill has been sent to Mexico’s Congress this week. Some U.S. legislators said they wouldn’t ratify the free trade agreement, negotiated last year to replace the old NAFTA, until Mexico passes a labor reform bill.

The bill is expected to assure workers can freely vote for the union representation by secret ballot. Pro-company unions in Mexico have a long history of keeping wages down and workers voiceless in union affairs.

Márquez also said that the border slowdowns — caused by the re-assignment of some U.S. border agents to processing waves of incoming migrants — had most acutely affected shipments of Mexican fresh vegetables headed north.

“Of course Mexico is going to lose, Mexican exporters are going to lose,” Márquez said. “But in the end, the ones who are going to be affected are U.S. consumers, because soon they won’t find fresh vegetables on store shelves.”