The United States used a footnote to deflect anti-discrimination requirements set out in the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada after congressional Republicans called them "insulting to our sovereignty."
President Donald Trump put pen to paper on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), after forcing the U.S.'s neighbors to negotiate a new trade deal.
Article 23.9 of USMCA, titled "Discrimination in the Workplace," states: "The Parties recognize the goal of eliminating discrimination in employment and occupation, and support the goal of promoting equality of women in the workplace.
"Accordingly, each Party shall implement policies that it considers appropriate to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including with regard to sexual harassment), pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and caregiving responsibilities; provide job-protected leave for birth or adoption of a child and care of family members; and protect against wage discrimination."
Many states still have laws allowing for the discrimination of LGBTQ people by companies and efforts in Congress to pass a new Equality Act to end such practices have been rebuffed.
But the Trump administration added a footnote to Article 23.9, essentially relieving it of the obligation to change federal law in America so discrimination would no longer allowed anywhere in the private sector in any state.
"The United States' existing federal agency policies regarding the hiring of federal workers are sufficient to fulfill the obligations set forth in this Article," the footnote states.
"The Article thus requires no additional action on the part of the United States, including any amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in order for the United States to be in compliance with the obligations set forth in this Article."
Geoffrey Gertz, a fellow at the Washington, D.C., think tank Brookings Institution, called the footnote "ridiculous."
"Honestly, whatever you think of the LGBTQ provisions in the new NAFTA, this outcome—to include them but nullify them with a footnote—is ridiculous," Gertz tweeted. "And it's the kind of thing that will make progressives even more suspicious of engaging with trade liberalization."
After learning of the new trade deal's provisions on discrimination, a group of Republicans in Congress co-signed a letter to President Trump urging him to rethink, saying there were "deeply concerned" by the "sexual orientation and gender identity language."
"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, sent in November, reads.
"A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy. 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."