USMCA deal close (Dec. 10, 2019)
U.S. opposition lawmakers are on the verge of an agreement with for Congress to pass a modified U.S. trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Democrats of the House of Representatives have been meeting for months with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate modifications to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The agreement would lift the last remaining hurdle to the pact that would replace the Nafta free trade agreement. Democrats have focused on more robust labor regulation enforcement. Their other demands include lowering the intellectual-property protections for biologic drugs as well as increasing enforcement measures for labor standards in the agreement. It wasn't clear yet what concessions had been agreed upon. Nor was it clear that Mexico would agree to their demands. On Sunday Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico had drawn several red lines on revisions, including a blanket rejection of foreign labor inspectors in Mexican factories.
Lighthizer and Jared Kushner, the U.S. president's son-in-law and senior adviser, were expected to head to Mexico this morning. Canadian deputy-prime minister Chrystia Freeland was also invited by the Mexican government. The three countries reached agreement on the pact a year ago, but the deal requires congressional approval. Mexican lawmakers already ratified the agreement.
(New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal)
Alberto Fernández swore in as Argentina's president this morning. He has promised to focus on growth-focused policies, a sharp change from his predecessor's austerity push. But Fernández faces significant challenges: annual inflation is over 50 percent, poverty is approaching 40 percent, there is an economic recession and the country must restructure about $100 billion in sovereign debt, reports Reuters.
The transfer of power has been charged with Peronist symbolism. Barriers set up to keep protests away from the Casa Rosada were cut away, and massive social mobilizations have turned out to celebrate the new Peronist government.
Peronists are Argentina's "natural party of government," but voters who rejected former president Mauricio Macri in October's election were also reacting to his failed economic promises, write David Rieff in the New York Review of Books. If the past year of Argentina's political game of four-dimensional chess has left you confused, this piece masterfully reviews the players and motivations. And moderately hopeful take (it is day one, after all): "It is easy to wax apocalyptic about Argentina. ... But it’s hardly on the brink of collapse—as much as alarmism is a national neurosis in Argentina."
Argentina's incoming government will likely push successfully for lawmakers to legalize abortion, a move that would have impact on feminist movements around the region, writes journalist Luciana Peker in the Post Opinión.
A group of nine Brazilian states is teaming up with France to protect the Amazon rainforest. The partnership will be announced at the Madrid climate summit this week, and bypasses the Brazilian national government, reports Reuters. The Brazilian states said they approached several European countries about directly funding state-level preservation projects.
Fires were three times more common in beef-producing zones than in the rest of the Amazon this summer. An investigation by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 70 percent of Nasa fire alerts were in the estimated buying zones of beef companies. The work is based on data collected by Brazilian NGO Imazon.
Two U.N.-appointed experts said the World Bank should reconsider its investment in one of Brazil’s biggest beef producers because of the industry’s links to deforestation and the climate crisis. Although Minerva, the country's second largest beef exporter, has been able to certify its direct suppliers as zero-deforestation, like other large Brazilian companies, it cannot monitor indirect suppliers, reports the Guardian.
There is a growing push in Europe and the UK to oblige large business to conduct due diligence on issues such as deforestation and human rights abuses in their supply chain, reports the Guardian.
And a French MEP said he could not vote in favour of the EU trade deal with the Mercosur due to environmental concerns. (Guardian)
If former President Evo Morales was playing somewhat fast and loose with democratic institutions, his successor seems to be on an even worst path. Interim-leader Jeanine Ánez "pledged to “bring back democracy and tranquillity,” but she instead embarked on a "blatantly revanchist, ruthless path," denounces the New York Times editorial board. "Stacking her cabinet with religious conservatives bitterly opposed to Mr. Morales’s Movement for Socialism, breaking ties with the left-wing governments of Cuba and Venezuela and dispatching an ambassador to a gleeful Trump administration, the first in Washington in 11 years."
Immigration arrests along the U.S. southern border fell for the sixth consecutive month in November. New statistics released yesterday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection show the number of people U.S. authorities took into custody fell nearly 6 percent from October to November, to 42,649. Arrests have dropped 70 percent since May. Authorities said the drop reflects the U.S. Trump administration's regulatory changes; policies that tighten asylum rules; and a program requiring asylum seekers to await adjudication in Mexico. (Washington Post)
A bit late, but still worth reading: Jorge Ramos explains why the presence of U.S. troops on Mexican soil -- on the pretext of hunting down terrorist drug cartel operatives -- is unacceptable. (New York Times Español)
A year into Andrés Manuel López Obrador's presidency, his security policies have had no tangible results for Mexicans, writes Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano director Francisco Rivas in the Post Opinión.
A Chilean transport plane bound for Antarctica on a maintenance mission went missing with 38 people yesterday evening. (New York Times, Associated Press)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... Latin America Daily Briefing