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Is Pelosi Making Mexico Pay for its Trump Deal?

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 11/29/2019 James Freeman
Nancy Pelosi wearing a suit and tie © Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

The Speaker of the House who called a border wall with Mexico “an immorality” is still sitting on a Mexican request to approve a new trade agreement. What is the morality of ignoring this key priority of our southern neighbors?

In a letter this week, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes another shot at persuading Mrs. Pelosi to accept yes for an answer on a union-friendly renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement:

Dear Madam Speaker:

Following up on my letter dated October 8, I would like to inform you that, with approval of our 2020 federal budget, which includes appropriations for implementing the labor law reforms that I have promoted, we have fully met our commitments regarding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

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A bona fide leftist, Mr. López Obrador by now must be wondering how many of the Speaker’s liberal allies he needs to lobby to get this deal done. Writes the Mexican president:

I reiterate here what I have said in my conversations with the Congressional delegation led by Representative Richard Neal, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, regarding a key concern that has been raised: you can be assured that we will fulfill our labor-related commitments.

In the first place, and most importantly, you can be assured that we will fulfill these labor commitments because Mexico has raised them to the Constitutional level. In addition, the secondary rules needed to enforce these laws have been established and funds have been provided for their successful implementation.

Is the Speaker trying to make Mexico pay for a new trade wall simply to prevent a Trump policy success? This column doubts that the new agreement will be more beneficial than the existing NAFTA and in some ways it will be worse. But given Mr. Trump’s occasional threats to try to destroy NAFTA altogether in the absence of a replacement, the new deal would at least reduce policy uncertainty, which has lately been discouraging investment on both sides of the border.

And given Mrs. Pelosi’s rhetoric on the need for good relations with our southern neighbors, how can she block Mexico’s effort to affirm our trading relationship?

Mr. López Obrador clearly understands the risks Mrs. Pelosi is creating by allowing the issue to remain unresolved as the U.S. approaches a presidential election year. He writes:

Mexico respectfully invites you to conclude this complex chapter between our countries and, as I said in my October 8 letter, let us move forward with the USMCA promptly, to ensure that the electoral process in your country, with the debates and passions typical of all democracies, doesn’t prevent or delay the conclusion of such an important event. I am convinced that history will judge us favorably for approving this needed platform of friendship, cooperation and prosperity between our societies and nations.

News consumers who spent last winter watching the Speaker preside over a government shutdown rather than allow funding for a border wall—which she called “an immorality between countries”—must be baffled at her sudden indifference to the concerns of our Mexican friends.

In December of last year, the Associated Press reported on one of the many occasions on which the Speaker expressed outrage at the idea of imposing costs on Mexico:

Pelosi told colleagues privately that Trump insisted during an Oval Office meeting that Mexico will pay for the wall “one way or another.”

She told him Mexico isn’t going to pay for it. The president responded that Mexico would pay with money the U.S. will make from the revised North American Free Trade Deal, known as USMCA.

Pelosi told the president “that’s terrible” and told him she’s going “go out and tell people that you think that Mexico is paying for it with money that should be going into our economy.”

The President of Mexico is now telling Speaker Pelosi that if she won’t accept the USMCA, Mexico is going to pay a significant price, and a lot of money will not be going into the North American economy.

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In Other News

It’s Lonely at the Top During a surprise visit to serve Thanksgiving dinner to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, President Trump suggested that the Islamic State terrorist organization may be having trouble recruiting a new chief executive. A White House transcript of the President’s remarks at Bagram Airfield includes this excerpt:

... the animal known as al-Baghdadi... the man that was trying to reinstitute ISIS... is dead. His second is dead. His third — we have the sights on the third. I think the third doesn’t want the job. (Laughter.) The third is saying, “You know what? Maybe I’ll go work in a store, or something.” (Laughter.)

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(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web.)

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Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “Borrowed Time,” now available from HarperBusiness.

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