On December 10, 2019, a cumbersome, two-plus-year process to draft a new North American trade treaty concluded. One of Donald Trump's promises during his first campaign was to end NAFTA and get a new agreement more favorable to the U.S. working class. Whether he succeeded or not is still up for debate, but some of the most far-reaching reforms in the new agreement came not from the White House or Trump's negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, but from Democrats in the House of Representatives, who pushed for a series of labor and environmental reforms to be implemented in Mexico. Behind that effort were several congressmen, one of the most prominent being Jimmy Gomez, a California congressman, son of Mexican parents, and member of the Hispanic Caucus.
Rumor has it that Gomez, who last week won his second re-election, will be named U.S. Trade Representative. Unlike Mexico, the U.S. has an impressive legal and trade team in place to design these treaties. This is a very powerful department that reports directly to the U.S. President. It has a staff of more than 200 specialists and offices in Geneva and Brussels.
LPO had the chance to interview Gomez in Los Angeles last March, during the Democratic primary. He is a legislator with a very relaxed and accessible style, willing to share his ideas. His answers are well thought out and he has clear priorities for the people in his district. Gomez spoke proudly of the accomplishments they had made in renegotiating the USMCA with the White House and the Republicans.
In particular, he showed an understanding of the behavior of U.S. corporations on their own soil and when they operate outside the U.S., in weaker democracies.
"In the end, we don't want to be the ones to watch Mexico's violations. We want the Mexicans to watch themselves, don't we? That's why we had to create a mechanism that, within six months, if any violations appeared, the government could move quickly," he explained.
He was also optimistic about drafting a development plan for Central America in collaboration with Mexico. Another of his priorities is reform to improve gun control in the U.S., although he said this would be impossible while the Senate was under Republican control.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez.
Biden's arrival probably means a return to the aggressive foreign trade policy that both parties had been pursuing in the U.S. since the 1980s. However, the counterweight within the party that will come from the progressive wing will be strong in trying to minimize the damage to the working class.
Gomez also belongs to the Assembly's Progressive Caucus, led by progressives like Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal. He has the backing of rising stars in the leftist movement, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In the Senate, the only member is former presidential candidate and moral leader of the Progressives, Bernie Sanders.
The inclusion of Gomez in the cabinet, in an area as critical as foreign trade, would send an important progressive signal from the president-elect.
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