Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Donald Trump lauds 'historic' NAFTA replacement deal

NAFTA talks US, Canada reach trilateral trade pact with Mexico to replace NAFTA
Elsie Buchanan | 02 October, 2018, 04:44

A senior Trump administration official said the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) as a "great win for the president and a validation for his strategy in the area of worldwide trade".

Ahead of the midnight deadline set by the White House, The New York Times reports that President Trump approved changes that essentially revamp the 1993 NAFTA deal, bringing Canada on board after Mexico had already agreed in August.

USA law requires the White House to submit the text to Congress 60 days before signing. That would comply with a congressional notification requirement and allow Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to sign the deal on his last day in office, they said.

In a joint statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the agreement "will strengthen the middle class, and create good, well-paying jobs and new opportunities for the almost half billion people who call North America home". "There's definitely going to be an advantage for USA online retailers selling lower priced items into Canada.I am heaving a sigh of relief and saying it could have been a lot worse".

Dairy farmers around Canada were not so convinced.

Juan Carlos Baker, Mexico's under secretary of foreign trade, is expected to present the details of the agreement to the Mexican senate, according to the Times.

The new agreement also signals the Trump administration is open to keeping trade agreements with some countries alive, analysts say, although most fell short of including China in that list.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the trade deal was "profoundly beneficial" to Canadians. It's less severe than the US's original demand for a sunset clause, which would have forced each side to recertify the deal every five years to keep it in effect.

So the Americans got two things: "they've got access to the dairy market, the Canadian market, and they've also blocked us from their own market", he said.

"Protecting our auto industry was one of the core concerns that Canadians had about getting to a deal, and we're glad to say that we have significant protections".

According to people briefed on the negotiations, Canada will ease protections on its dairy market and provide access that is similar to what the United States would have gained through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade treaty that Trump withdrew from past year.

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in August that the review mechanism is created to solve problems and prevent them from festering, rather than to terminate the deal.

The new deal preserves a regional economic unit that enables North American manufacturers, particularly in the auto industry, to compete against global rivals.

Tariffs on imported steel have hit the construction industry nationwide but the newly-minted trade deal between the USA and Canada may not provide the needed relief, at least not immediately.

Trudeau fired back: "We won't sign a bad deal for Canada".

The old NAFTA's so-called Chapter 19 dispute-settlement mechanism - which hears bi-national anti-dumping and countervailing duties cases - remains untouched in the new agreement, the officials said.

Trump, for his part, said the accord would return the United States to a "manufacturing powerhouse".

Insiders got wind of a breakthrough after 14 months of tumultuous talks and just hours before US and Mexican trade authorities were set to publish their own trade agreement without Canada as a signatory. USMCA also stipulates that Mexico must make it easier for workers to form unions.

Despite progress made to overhaul NAFTA, Trump still faces several other trade disputes around the world, not least with China, where the president has slapped a tariff on $200bn on Chinese imports.

Trudeau repeatedly made the point that he had managed to preserve the protected domestic market, which some USA interest groups said should be scrapped.

Canada, the United States' No. 2 trading partner, is by far the No. 1 destination for USA exports, and the US market accounts for 75 percent of what Canada sells overseas.

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