Labor Conditions Mexican Fields Threaten USMCA ExportBy Jan Hogewoning | Mon, 06/22/2020 - 13:31
The National Council of Agriculture (CNA) has warned of the potential disruption that Mexico’s precarious labor conditions in the field could have on Mexican export if the US decides to wave a red flag under the new framework of USMCA. This is not the first time the president of the council, Bosco de la Vega, has voiced his concern about the labor conditions in the Mexican field. However, with the implementation of the new trade deal nearing, the issue has been gaining new attention, not just here but in the US, as well.
USMCA is stricter in the enforcement of labor conditions, particularly in the area of child labor and violence against workers. The treaty, because of pressure from Democrats, contains key benchmarks for reforms on labor laws in Mexico and states that failure to reform these would mean enforcement of actions determined in the treaty. El Heraldo de Mexico writes on June 22, that the US has six secretaries, as well as labor attachés at the US Embassy in Mexico, to monitor labor conditions. In addition, the free trade agreement calls for supervision of labor conditions by US congress. This year, the US Office of International Labor Affairs includes a list of 12 Mexican products that are in violation of labor standards, currently producing tomato, onion, sugar cane, chili, cucumber, watermelon, tobacco, and others. The inclusion in the report is very recent, which could suggest that US parties are indeed looking to act on the matter, according to El Heraldo de Mexico.
USMCA provides two mechanisms to resolve issues regarding labor conditions. Either there could be sanctions for the entire sector or only for a specific labor facility. The last one is known as a rapid response mechanism. The sanctions could be embargoes and tariff increases. However, red flagging could also lead to severe reputational damage for companies in the Mexican agricultural sector, says CNA.
In response to impending implementation of USMCA, the federal government has been engaging more actively with the agri-food sector, writes Heraldo de México. The Ministry of Labor is attempting to alert companies of all the applicable legal attacks companies could face under the new treaty. On his own part, de La Vega, is insisting on “the implementation of self-assessment protocols for companies,” which would require “dissemination and training mechanisms” and the “design of codes of conduct and labor certification that guarantees compliance with all labor regulations.” CNA has been promoting workshops to raise awareness among companies of the risks and what steps could be taken.