At the end of last week, Politico reported that 40 Republican members of the House of Representatives signed and delivered a letter to President Donald Trump imploring him not to sign the USMCA deal as it stands. They want to amend the portion of the agreement that commits all three countries to protect the rights of certain groups including workers who identify as LGBTQ+.
The section of the USMCA to which the letter is referring protects workers from discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. The letter claims the section will confuse U.S. legislation by identifying “sex” and “gender” differently than it is currently in American law. It also calls out the inclusion of civil rights in the deal as an assault on U.S. sovereignty because the outside agreement would have to be used to determine internal policies.
“As a sovereign nation, the United States has the right to decide when, whether and how to tackle issues of civil rights, protected classes, and workplace rights,” the letter states.
“A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy,” it continues. “It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept.”
Though the new NAFTA deal was approved by negotiators as well as the countries’ leaders at the beginning of October, the deal has not yet been officially signed. Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto were expected to sign the agreement at the G20 at the end of November. This letter could send everyone back to the drawing board.
Building on Canada’s leadership role in pursuing gender equality in trade policy, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (#USMCA) includes gender-related provisions to help advance women’s economic empowerment: https://t.co/3vmMIH3JM4 pic.twitter.com/zP3WHuID4Q
— Canada Trade (@CanadaTrade) October 10, 2018
This isn’t the first time Justin Trudeau’s insistence that worker protections be a mandatory part of a trade deal has landed him in hot water with foreign governments. Trudeau’s trip to China last year looked like it promised a lucrative trade deal between the two nations, but it hit a major bump in the form of Canada insisting that women’s rights, environmental and labour protections be included in the agreement. China refused to do the deal with the protections baked in and Canada refused to do the deal without them. Is the same thing about to happen again over LGBTQ rights?
Trudeau doesn’t seem to be too (outwardly) unnerved by the suggestion that the rights section could totally derail the USMCA. He told press at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit Sunday that he is confident that the agreement represents Canadian values, something he doesn’t intend to compromise.
“We got to a good agreement that I think represents Canadian values, Canadian approach, but also values that are broadly shared amongst citizens of our three countries,” he said. “In any trade deal, there are going to be people who would like this or like that or not want this or not want that.” He added that he believes the deal is in all three countries’ best interests. He wouldn’t expand on what he and the Canadian negotiating team would be willing to do to keep the workers’ rights section intact.
Donald Trump has yet to comment on if the letter will sway his decision to sign the USMCA.