Pascrell calls for Mexican labor reform in NAFTA talks

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Pascrell told a room of union leaders, now is the chance to update the NAFTA agreement so good-paying, middle-class jobs aren’t sent abroad.

“What they pay their workers and the unions down there are the biggest joke in the world,” said Pascrell.

Among his points, the need to increase the wages of Mexican workers, because right now, according to a fact sheet handed out at the event, U.S. manufacturing workers make about seven times more than their Mexican counterparts.

“Labor costs will continue to drive manufacturers to move production to Mexico. That’s the center court. All this other baloney is distraction,” said Pascrell. “The easiest thing to beat up is immigrants.”

NAFTA was established in 1994 as a way to lift taxes on imports and exports for almost all goods traded between Canada, the United States and Mexico. The world’s largest free trade agreement was seen as a way to make it easier for companies in the three countries to do business across borders.

“We have a $100 billion trade deficit with Mexico. What does that tell you? You know what it tells you? NAFTA is no good,” said President Trump on Feb. 23 at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Trump has called it the worst trade deal in U.S. history and blames the agreement for the decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs because it allows companies to move factories to Mexico, where labor is cheaper.

“Hate to say it, but if we can’t make a fair deal for the United States, we will terminate the deal and we’ll start all over again,” said Trump.

He’s the first American president to begin its renegotiation.

While Pascrell agrees there needs to be improvements made to NAFTA, he says getting rid of it all together would be extremely damaging to businesses in the U.S.

“Having a tariff war is only going to make matters worse,” said Pascrell.

In the audience was Louis Katz whose is a member of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. He said for close to 30 years, he worked to train and place people in jobs, and like many, he’s concerned that it continues.

“I think we’ve lost too many jobs to China, and I hope we can work with Mexico,” said Katz.

As the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on trade, Pascrell says he leaves for Mexico this week to continue negotiations.

“When NAFTA came into existence, there was not a great IT intellectual technology property. Property rights, privacy big issue. And it will be a big issue in the negotiations,” he said.

Canada, Mexico and the United States are currently in the seventh round of talks. If negotiations continue to drag out, it could lead to complications as Mexico will vote for a new president in July.