New provisions of the Mexico-US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (T-MEC) have created new tensions between countries and are approaching a tipping point. Two complaints of labor rights abuses and union corruption in Mexico, as well as differences in interpretations of export rules of origin, show the rift between Mexico and the United States based on what was negotiated under previous administrations in 2018.
Some 6,000 workers at General Motors’ plant in Silao, Guanajuato, will vote this week for or against a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by one of the country’s largest union organizations, the Confederation Trabajadores de México (CTM) — a milestone in the history of Work in Mexico. This Tuesday, the same day that consultations begin in Guanajuato, the Minister for External Relations, Marcelo Ebrard, announced that he will travel to Washington with the Minister of Economy, Tatiana Clotheer, on September 9 as part of the High Level Economic Dialogue (DEAN), chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris. . The success of the consultations, measured by transparency and credibility, will lay the foundation for those meetings.
Although DEAN’s scope extends beyond trade, “T-MEC will be more than present at this meeting given the scale it represents,” says Ignacio Martinez Cortes, academic coordinator of the UNAM Laboratory for Trade, Economics and Business (LACEN). “This is why it is so important that the cause of the union appears as clean as possible so that the meeting is not reached with such an open front,” the international trade expert adds. Additionally, if consultations fail, the United States may impose a tariff of up to 25% on plant production at Silao.
One of the biggest differences between the old NAFTA and the new T-MEC is the provisions made to authorities for reporting labor violations by unions. T-MEC included the creation of a facility-specific rapid response mechanism (MLRR), an unprecedented dispute resolution procedure. When, in May, the US authorities received information that workers union at the General Motors plant in Silao had suffered “serious violations” of their rights, the US used the mechanism to demand that the consultancy be conducted. T-MEC also allowed for more foreign labor attachés.
Silao’s complaint is the second complaint filed by the Joe Biden administration in which a union in a factory in Mexico is accused of preventing workers from organizing in an organization alternative to their own. Another case is the case of Tridonex, in Matamoros (Tamaulipas), which finally reached an agreement with the Biden administration, promising compensation for 154 workers who had been fired, as well as guaranteeing labor union freedom, among other measures.
“The two cases brought by the United States turned out to be flawed, and in both cases the government of Mexico took action,” said Juan Carlos Becker, a consultant and one of the T-MEC negotiators under the previous administration in Mexico. “This can be seen as a success, but there are also arguments and complaints that companies and unions in the United States do not have the same protections from their government as they do in Mexico,” he adds.
On Sunday, two days before the vote in Silao, CTM issued a statement accusing foreign unions of interfering with the process. “There has been, for several weeks now, constant pressure from American unions towards the Mexican authorities and towards the workers of this auto factory to try to influence the outcome; therefore we reject this interference.”
To ensure legitimacy, the vote will be monitored by the National Electoral Institute (INE) as well as by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The National Statistical Institute has been the target of attacks by Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who recently proposed at a press conference on Monday reforming the institution, because “they are not democrats, they don’t respect the will of the people, they don’t act upright, they don’t enforce it on the fringes of the law, and nobody Above the law, he said, “Then, they cannot be there, there must be change.”
Secretary Clouther, of Mexico, disagreed with the way the US interprets rules of origin in the auto sector, which quantify the percentage of parts that make up an exported product. In the country, against import from countries that do not belong to T-MEC. In July, after meeting with his counterparts in the United States and Canada, Clothier said that since the treaty became effective, both Canada and Mexico have expressed that interpreting the rules as the Biden administration does “is not what we agreed on regarding the T-MEC and requested a review of these.” The problem is that the interpretation is what was agreed upon.”
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