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Mexico ratifies modified N. American trade deal

Update: December, 13/2019 - 11:47

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican Senate ratified the modified North American free trade agreement with the US and Canada on Thursday after more than two years of arduous negotiations.

New additions introduced on Tuesday to the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) -- which notably toughen the deal's labor enforcement provisions -- were rubber stamped by 107 votes to one, making Mexico the first country to sign on.

The path to ratification for the other two countries, expected in early 2020, also looks clear for USMCA.

It replaces the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Donald Trump complains has been "a disaster" for the US.

First signed in November 2018, USMCA got bogged down in political complications, particularly in the United States, where opposition Democrats questioned whether it would really force Mexico to deliver on labor reforms meant to level the playing field between Mexican and American workers.

But another year of talks produced a series of additions – notably including tougher enforcement of labor provisions -- that won the blessing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the key Democrat needed to move the agreement forward, as well as the largest US labor federation, the AFL-CIO.

During Thursday's debate in Mexico's Senate, lawmakers said the new trade accord will stimulate the Mexican economy -- which is forecast to contract this year -- and instill confidence in investors.

Some opposition senators, while voting in favor of the accord, said there should have been more time for debate on it while others said free trade had made economic inequality more acute. — AFP

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