Friday, 22 September, 2017

Trump Administration Takes Initial Steps To Renegotiate NAFTA

Unifor calls for overhaul of NAFTA US Lists NAFTA Priorities as Renegotiation of the Deal Looms
Bessie Robbins | 20 July, 2017, 00:30

Because NAFTA is so huge - trade among the United States, Canada and Mexico was $1.1 trillion in 2016 - the negotiating goals had to cover a lot of ground, too. The White House emphasis on trade follows a string of other recent theme weeks on energy, job-training and infrastructure that mostly failed to draw much attention away from the Russian Federation inquiry.

Perhaps one of the largest implications of the president's renegotiation ambitions is the deconstructing of barriers to US investment in Canada and Mexico.

The administration proposed getting rid of NAFTA's Chapter 19 dispute settlement mechanism, which has always been a thorn in the U.S.

Recently, and indicating the hard environment facing Nafta negotiations, two agricultural trade issues have arisen - the U.S. has imposed a lumber tariff on imported Canadian lumber to punish Canada for harming United States dairy exports and has proposed limits on imports of Mexican sugar into the US.

Of primary concern for Canadians is the US demand for the elimination of NAFTA's Chapter 19, which requires a binational panel to hear complaints about perceived unfair trade. But Chapter 19 allows a foreign country, like Canada, to appeal this decision before a panel made up of officials from both countries. His administration already is pursuing multiple trade cases on individual products and is weighing whether to impose tariffs and quotas on foreign steel in hopes of curbing production in China, even though that country represents a fraction of US steel imports.

Conservative MP Randy Hoback, one of the four committee members requesting the emergency meeting, said the meeting is necessary to make sure the government has a game plan for negotiations, that they've identified the issues Canadians want to see on the bargaining table and those they don't want on the table. Unless the USA starts saving more or investing less, that deficit won't decline - regardless of this or any other trade agreement. In 1993, Canada won a victory on this panel that reversed a decision by the USA trade court to impose duties on lumber.

The most important fact to keep in mind as the administration renegotiates NAFTA is that the agreement has been a success.

The steelworkers, who did not support the TPP and want controversial investor-state dispute settlement provisions (NAFTA's Chapter 11) removed from NAFTA, are one of several groups publicizing their submissions to Canada's consultation process. "It's part of the agreement".

"What is positive is that (the United States) themselves paraphrased that they won't reintroduce quotas or tariffs during this process (of renegotiation)", he added. But under the terms of NAFTA, Canada and Mexico are always excluded from those penalties. That's all right. Currency manipulation can indeed be a problem - as it once was with China - and measures to regulate it would be helpful.

In its negotiating goals released Monday night, the administration proposed scrapping that exemption. For example, if Canada closes its doors to USA dairy products, might the USA return to dairy export subsidies to help its dairy industry? Speaking on Mexican television Tuesday, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo expressed concern about the United States getting rid of this provision.

"The USTR seems to be backing the same priorities that have guided trade agreements since NAFTA was first negotiated, promoting corporate interests and leaving workers behind", Gerard said.

"Do it right now, because it's right and it's what good trading partners should do", he said. Farmers and ranchers have encountered market access issues with Canada as well.

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