PATERSON, NJ – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), a member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, today commented on the Trump Administration’s failure to form a Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force to monitor the soon-to-be implemented North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as required by Section 741 of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act (H.R. 5430).
“I will be watching this administration’s implementation of their new trade agreement like a hawk,” said Rep. Pascrell. “That the administration has failed to form a Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force ignores a clear deadline in the law set by Congress. This global pandemic has shed even more light on the inadequacies of worker protections around the globe. From migrant farming issues in Mexico, to the continuing oppression of the Uyghur people in China, this task force can help our global efforts to combat forced labor – but only if it actually exists. The administration needs to stop with golden promises of cooperation and demonstrate actual good faith efforts to comply with legal requirements, period.”
Rep. Pascrell has been a leader in Congress on trade issues. In March, Pascrell led 12 members of the Ways and Means Committee in support of the Administration’s request to increase the Office of Trade’s budget by $13.195 million in Fiscal Year 2021 for increasing the staff and resources to strengthen trade enforcement actions and processes that prevent forced labor. Pascrell was deeply involved in the NAFTA renegotiations, traveling to talks in both Montreal and Mexico City in 2018, meeting with Mexican President Lopez Obrador in Mexico City in 2019, and working with the U.S. Trade Representative to ensure the perspectives of American workers and businesses are heard and accounted for in any agreement.
Throughout the process, Pascrell repeatedly emphasized that any new NAFTA agreement must contain: strong enforceable labor provisions that can be implemented and then monitored meaningfully; environmental standards that block companies from polluting; and reforms to ensure that public welfare measures and the rights of sovereign governments are not unfairly undermined by international tribunals, among other areas.
In January 2018, Rep. Pascrell led 183 House Democrats urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to prioritize Mexican labor reforms in NAFTA renegotiations. In August 2018, Pascrell wrote to then-Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady (D-TX-08) calling on him to assemble the House Advisory Group on Negotiation (HAGON) to advise the Trump administration as it continued the NAFTA renegotiations. In November 2018, Pascrell and former Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI-09) wrote to the U.S. Trade Representative and Labor Secretary Alex Acosta highlighting anti-worker violence and intimidation in Mexico. In April 2019, Pascrell led 85 of his colleagues again calling on Ambassador Lighthizer to demand that Mexico pass meaningful labor reforms before consideration of any renegotiated NAFTA.