Mexico minister queries USA talk on cutting NAFTA trade deficits

Since Americans embraced Trump and his unabashedly protectionist, America-first agenda last November, the Trudeau government has spared no effort to build bridges to the new administration, and cultivate pro-trade allies in Congress, trade-reliant states and the US business community.

The plan also signals the Administration's intention to begin negotiations in 30 days and it follow's USTR Robert Lighthizer requisite 90-notice in May. However, NAFTA is 23 years old now.

"These provisions must be changed so multinational corporations can not continue to profit from the advantages of a trade agreement while workers suffer stagnated wages and economic insecurity" while companies move US factory jobs "to countries that do not respect fundamental human rights", he declared.

America's lead negotiator for NAFTA will be John Melle, the current US assistant trade representative for the Western Hemisphere. Trump has pledged to recover factory jobs and boost wages by crafting new trade deals.

Machinists President Bob Martinez, Lori Wallach, executive director of Public Citizen's Trade Watch - who is an experienced trade attorney - and other worker allies. However, a spokeswoman told Inside U.S. Trade that "subsequent rounds have not been confirmed by all countries at this time".

The right way to judge trade deals is to ask instead whether they promote competition and efficiency for all participants. As research by Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, shows, 9.2 percent of USA imports from China are covered by these so-called anti-dumping and countervailing duties, compared with 2.7 percent of imports from the rest of the world, and only 1.3 percent of US imports from NAFTA countries.

"If you take that away, you could see a lot more anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases against Canada and Mexico, and that's why I would expect to see Canada and Mexico push against this", said Bown.

It also plans to eliminate a range of nontariff barriers to USA agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico.

On Tuesday, Canadian ambassador to the U.S. David McNaughton said in a speech in Edmonton that Canada would be willing to discuss whether the dispute mechanism needs to be "improved or modernized".

In a statement on his website, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of OH said the president is "not qualified" to broker a deal that would help American workers.

It helps that the Liberal government's main opposition, the Conservatives, have committed to presenting a united, non-partisan, Canadian front on NAFTA and have been echoing numerous same arguments in favour of free trade.

Though Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah came out in support of the Administration's efforts, he suggested the objectives were just a starting point that will be developed further. The administration said it is also targeting "unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices" and "burdensome restrictions on intellectual property". Trump's theory of trade is wrong, but his Nafta strategy isn't.

Overall, the American Apparel & Footwear Association is pleased with the direction set forth in the blueprint. 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. It can be renewed, but it adds additional pressure to the talks.

  • Latoya Cobb