By  on August 11, 2009

President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, after completing a regional summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, said Monday they would work to improve the labor and environmental side deals of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But the three leaders apparently did not resolve a trucking dispute between the U.S. and Mexico in which importers and exporters have a vested interest.

During the summit’s closing press conference, Calderon said, “The United States, Mexico and Canada have tools to restart our agreements. We recognize that it is essential to abide by NAFTA and to resolve the pending topics that impede us to reach greater regional competitiveness.”

Despite campaigning on promises that he would renegotiate NAFTA, Obama has since backed off.

In a bilateral meeting during the summit, Obama and Calderon discussed a dispute that has been smoldering since the U.S. canceled a pilot program under NAFTA that allowed Mexican trucks to operate in the U.S. Congress pulled the plug on the initiative in March, citing safety concerns and union worries about protecting U.S. jobs. In response, Mexico imposed tariffs on $2.4 billion in U.S. goods.

Other topics discussed at the two-day summit included “Buy American” provisions in the U.S. stimulus legislation, immigration reform, border security, the political upheaval in Honduras, climate change and economic cooperation between the three partners to address the global recession.

Meanwhile, in Washington on Monday, the General Accountability Office released a report critical of U.S. agencies’ enforcement and monitoring of labor and environmental provisions in four trade agreements with Singapore, Chile, Jordan and Morocco.

The GAO report said the Labor Department’s minimal oversight of labor laws, the U.S. Trade Representative’s “lack of compliance plans and sporadic monitoring” and the State Department’s “lax management of environmental projects” had hindered progress under the agreements.

Coincidentally on Monday the Ministry of Labor of Jordan responded to a National Labor Committee report on alleged labor violations at the Musa Garments factory in Jordan. The ministry dismissed many of the allegations as unsubstantiated, but acknowledged it had concerns about the behavior of some factory supervisors and the need for improvements in the dormitories used by workers.

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