Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross: NAFTA Negotiations Face Timing Pressures in 2018

24 September, 2017, 00:57 | Author: Franklin Nunez
  • Mexico-US-NAFTA

The United States will present new text proposals and begin to weigh into thornier issues of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the third round of negotiations starting in Ottawa on Saturday, U.S. chief negotiator John Melle said on Thursday.

"If we don't fix the rules of origin, negotiations on the rest of the agreement will fail to meaningfully shift the [U.S.] trade imbalance", Mr. Ross wrote in a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post.

Another reason is that the rules include a concept called substantial transformation, which means that if further processing of a non-NAFTA item is done by a NAFTA partner, the non-NAFTA items are "transformed" and are deemed to have been produced in the United States, Canada or Mexico.

The United States has made a big fuss over using NAFTA talks to demand better labour standards in Mexico, but after two rounds of discussions, US negotiators have still not presented any specifics about what they would like to see changed.

During the same appearance, Ross said President Trump's administration doesn't want to "unnecessarily irritate" Congress with trade concerns as the legislative arm of the federal government works to achieve tax reform. But Trump isn't a president to "forget his campaign promises", Ross clarified.

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The report finds NAFTA has enabled the US auto sector to outperform other industrial sectors. "That is going to change under President [Donald] Trump, and rules of origin are just the beginning". These countries are the two largest destinations for USA goods and services, accounting for more than one-third of total US exports.

Likewise, proponents of USA trade pacts with Australia and the six-country Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), for instance, underestimated the benefits of the deals.

Behind the scenes, talks between Canada, the USA and Mexico have been described as professional and broad, since negotiators have mostly been focusing on areas of agreement.

Before the free trade agreement (FTA) with Australia took effect in 2005, Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes estimated that USA pork exports "Down Under" would increase from $10.6 million to more than $60 million annually.

"These data debunk the claim that USA content in the form of parts is so high that we shouldn't worry about headline gross-deficit figures", Ross said in his op-ed. Mexico's position, as expressed by Mr. Smith, is that Mexico welcomes the process as an opportunity to update NAFTA and modernize the document to reflect the economic changes that both the USA and Mexico have experienced over the past 23 years.

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A second government official, speaking on background, says talks at this point are where Canadian negotiators had anticipated.

While imports to the United States from Mexico in 2016 were $294 billion, those, too, supported millions of American jobs. Another tricky issue is labor, given complaints from USA and Canadian unions that Mexico's low wages give it a manufacturing advantage. The United States is also expected to present proposals on intellectual property and investment, sources with knowledge of discussions said.

"The one thing that I can absolutely assure you of: I am 100 per cent confident, in terms of these discussions, that there will be some drama before they're over".

"We're going to be pushing hard for strong environmental standards".

"This is a free trade negotiation, but we're sitting across the table from someone who isn't necessarily talking free trade". Auto-sector export growth to Mexico from Canada has picked up even more quickly, albeit from a smaller base. They're talking about America first, they're talking in a very protectionist way about the American economy.

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Even Sarkozy himself was suspected in the affair, although all charges against him were dropped in 2013. Bettencourt passed away in the early hours of Thursday after suffering from dementia at her old age.

The Trump administration believes erasing the U.S.'s trade deficit - the amount that imports exceed exports - should be the country's top trade priority.


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