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Buchanan Opening Statement at Hearing on Mexico’s Labor Reform: Opportunities and Challenges for an Improved NAFTA

June 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Vern Buchanan (R-FL) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on Mexico’s Labor Reform: Opportunities and Challenges for an Improved NAFTA.

Before the start of today’s hearing, Rep. Buchanan and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the top Republican on the Committee, sent a letter to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).  CLICK HERE to read the full letter.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on Mexico’s labor reform.  And thank you to all of the witnesses today for taking the time to share your perspectives with us. 

“I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss the historic and significant nature of Mexico’s new law and its next steps for implementation.  I believe that Mexico is firmly committed to implementing this new law, and passing USMCA will help us ensure that Mexico faithfully implements these new reforms – leveling the playing field for American workers. 

“First, I want to congratulate Mexico for being the first country to ratify USMCA.  USMCA is a 21st century trade agreement that sets new and high standards so that our companies and workers can compete and win globally.  I am a strong supporter of USMCA because it modernizes our trade relationship with our closest trading partners in a smart, effective, and seamless way.  That includes areas like agriculture, services, intellectual property, and digital trade.  Delay in Congressional consideration of this agreement means that we don’t see these considerable new benefits.

“Second, USMCA contains groundbreaking labor standards that will improve labor conditions in Mexico and help level the playing field for American workers.  USMCA includes advanced, comprehensive, and enforceable labor obligations that are incorporated into the core text of the agreement and subject to the same dispute settlement provisions as all other obligations – a huge leap forward from NAFTA, where the labor provisions were just on the side.  In fact, the USMCA labor provisions are the strongest of any of our trade agreements.  The agreement also contains a detailed labor annex that requires Mexico to enact specific legislation providing for the effective recognition of the right to collectively bargain – it even delays entry into force until such legislation is passed. 

“The new government in Mexico lived up to this obligation, passing a watershed labor reform that will overhaul its system of labor justice and create better conditions for its workers.  In fact, many of Mexico’s fiercest labor critics have welcomed this landmark new law.

“By passing its labor legislation and ratifying USMCA, Mexico has – in my view – demonstrated a clear commitment to vastly improving its labor conditions and to free and fair trade.  And the Mexican government has demonstrated its good faith to implement this new law thoroughly and effectively.  In fact, I have here a detailed and impressive implementation plan from the Mexican government that shows its commitment to making sure each aspect of the law becomes a reality – Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to put this plan in the record.

“Mr. Chairman, I also suggest that we should hear directly from the Mexican government on its plans.  I have invited the Mexican Ambassador and any appropriate officials from her government to brief us on a bipartisan basis.

“There is no question that implementing these reforms will be a huge undertaking for Mexico and can’t happen overnight – but that is precisely because the new laws are so transformative.  Mexico should not be punished for its ambition.  Instead, the United States must stand ready to assist Mexico in ensuring that these new laws are implemented.

“Furthermore, I believe that to the extent there is any doubt about Mexico’s commitment, then USMCA itself is the best tool we have to ensure that Mexico faithfully implements its new laws and that American workers get the benefits of those actions.  The reason I say that is because USMCA includes these obligations in the core text of the agreement and subjects them to dispute settlement.  Without USMCA, the United States has no ability to compel Mexico to improve labor conditions.

“Put simply, there is no substitute for passing USMCA.  Every moment of delay from Congress means that American workers, farmers, and businesses lose out on the benefits of this agreement – and lose the ability to hold Mexico accountable to these new labor rules if needed.

“USMCA presents an opportunity to update our most vital trade relationships so that they work well for all Americans.  It is also an opportunity to ensure that Mexico follows through with its commitment to drastically improving labor conditions – which will help level the playing field for American workers. 

“Chairman Blumenauer, I look forward to working with you closely to achieve strong, bipartisan support for USMCA as quickly as possible, without delay.  Thank you again for calling this hearing, and thanks to the witnesses for taking the time to be here before us today.”