Jimmy Gomez
"As long as we have a Republican Senate, we won't be able to stop the flow of guns into Mexico"
Congressman Jimmy Gomez spoke to LPO about his experience negotiating the USMCA with AMLO and Trump, and his thoughts on the Democratic primary.

Last year, Democrats in the House of Representatives managed to push through a series of labor and environmental measures and reforms in Mexico as a requirement for the approval of the USMCA. Congressman Jimmy Gomez of California's 34th district experienced first-hand the complex process of negotiation between the Donald Trump White House, the Democratic-controlled Assembly of Representatives and its leader Nancy Pelosi, and the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Gomez met with LPO in the traditional Latino neighborhood of Highland Park, L.A., to talk about the treaty, the flow of firearms from the U.S. to Mexico, AMLO's Marshall Plan for Central America, and his expectations for the Democratic presidential primary.

Are you satisfied with what you and the other Democrats got from the White House and the AMLO administration during the USMCA negotiations?

Yeah. I mean, we got some labor enforcement mechanism that's never been included in any Trade Agreement that allows for the first time to monitor violations on the ground in Mexico and ensure that people's right to organize and assemble is respected, and having the mechanism to address those complaints quickly and then to impose penalties on those complaints. So, it is something that's never been done before. We also got rid of the pharmaceutical and drug companies protections, you know, protecting their patents. We got that taken out. It was originally in the TPP. The pharmaceutical drug companies really wanted it. It would have cost the price of drugs in Mexico to increase and then it would have had a pressure on drugs in the US to increase. Then we have an overall Improvement of enforcement of the overall agreement by removing the panel blocking that allowed Mexico and different countries to block any formation of the panel to investigate any violation of the agreement. And then we got environmental provisions that have never been included in any trade agreement. We did well. There's no such thing as a perfect trade agreement, but we ended up getting things that have never been done before. Hopefully there's a new consensus on what trade agreements should be. It's not just about increasing GDP growth. But also, how does it protect the environment? How does it protect workers? How does it actually improve conditions on the ground for people?

It was tough negotiating the USMCA, but we knew that we could get it because Trump doesn't care about the details. He cares about politics. Pelosi said, after we got the deal, she said "we ate their lunch as we ate the lunch of the Republicans"

How was the negotiating process between the House committee and the White House?

It was tough, but we knew that we could get it because Trump doesn't care about the details. He cares about politics. Pelosi said, after we got the deal, she said "we ate their lunch as we ate the lunch of the Republicans". As to the reason why we ate their lunch is because they don't care what's on the menu, right?

I know you tried to push for some changes regarding disputes resolution. I heard some critiques from the Sanders campaign.

They're looking at a strategy. They're trying to win certain voters. But if you look at Sherrod Brown, who wrote literally a book on opposing NAFTA, he supported this. No, it's not perfect. But it really has the enforcement mechanism we need. You know Mexico better than we do. They have to establish a full system, right? They have to stablish labor courts, inspectors, etc. But in the end, we don't want to be the ones policing the violations of Mexico. We want the Mexicans to police themselves, right? And that's why we had to create a mechanism that within six months, that if any violation when it came to those that it could be moved quickly. We know US corporations. They might be good actors here when it comes to regulation. But once they go to Mexico, they're not right and often it's hard for even the Mexican authorities to have control over those US companies.

What were your priorities going into negotiations with the Mexican government?

I met with AMLO. There's a transition going on in Mexico. We'll see how successful it is. The US corporations are so powerful that they can violate the law here and there. It takes the right enforcement mechanisms and monitoring to put that pressure for them to change their behavior. And that's what we're trying to do, create a situation where, if they are in violation, that you can move quick. Blocking that was a big, big deal. So, is it going to prevent the jobs from moving to Mexico? No, but over time hopefully we see wages increase in Mexico. We see better standards and therefore less pressure to actually have those jobs down there, but the economies are so intertwined. You can't separate them anymore.

In the past, AMLO has propose his own version of the Marshall Plan to develop Central America. Did he mention it to you during your meeting?

No, not at that time.

Do you believe Mexico and the US could collaborate in a project of this nature to develop the region?

We've actually had different ideas of that in Congress, about a kind of a Marshall Plan for Latin America, especially for the northern triangle. The pressure in those countries that force people to flee the violence and the lack of Economic Opportunity. You got to create and help those countries out. We've done that before. The Obama administration had like five billion dollars, but it needs to be done differently. I think it's right. You must create greater economic growth within those countries so that the people don't feel obliged to leave. Also, a lot of them are leaving because of violence issues. It is a serious situation and this Administration doesn't see it that way, right? They see a wall along the border as the best route, but we know that that's not the case. People will keep coming if they're desperate enough. I would love to see something that we can collaborate on that's productive.

What's your opinion on the Trump administration policy of sending asylum seekers back to Mexico while their cases are being considered?

I'm not a big fan of the remain in Mexico policy because it puts people in danger, and they have every right to seek asylum in the United States legally, under our Constitution and international law.

On the issue of gun control, do you think there's something to be done in terms of legislation to stop the flow of guns going into Mexico and being use by drug cartels and organized crime groups?

Well, we can't even pass a simple background check bill. We passed it out of the House, sent it to Mitch McConnell to have some reasonable gun control in the United States. As long as the Republicans are in charge of the Senate, it's hard to imagine taking any steps to do that. If you're looking at it from a security perspective, maybe, but if it's just a gun control perspective... They're not going to budge. You must reframe the debate differently because it is nearly impossible with this Senate.

Are you supporting any of the presidential candidates at this point?

I'm not. There was a lot of controversy in this area in 2016, when a lot of members of Congress, who are super delegates, endorsed. I felt that the best way to avoid that controversy is not to publicly endorse anyone, and then hopefully that there is a somebody who gets a majority of pledged delegates by the time they get to the convention and on the first round it's decided. You never know. Last week did people think Biden would actually be surging?

Yeah, by this time last week Bernie was supposed to be anointed king of the Democratic Party. 

Last week Bernie was going to just run away with the nomination, and now everyone is saying that it's going to be half and half. So, I don't know. I haven't endorsed and there was a real controversy in 2016 about elected officials trying to sway the process in one way or another. But we'll see. I'll be happy with any of them. I tell people that, even if your candidate doesn't win, think about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because she cannot hold on forever. She's already had cancer how many times? She's fallen. We have to put her in bubble wrap until we have a Democratic president. There's too much at stake to qualm about the differences of the democratic candidates.

Are you worried about the internal divisions between progressives and centrists?

Democrats are always a rowdy bunch, very opinionated. They're not like Republicans. Once they get their nominee, they all fall in line. Democrats will fight to the end, but we will coalesce. People need to know what's on the line. If you don't like kids being kept at cages at the border, then you better support the democratic nominee. If you don't want to live in a country where they deny climate science, then you better support the democratic nominee. If you want to believe in the rule of law and that the executive branch should answer to the legislative branch, you better support the democratic nominee. And if you want to make sure that the Supreme Court doesn't go extremely conservative, then you better support the democratic nominee. If not, we'll be in real trouble.

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