Trump still threatens new tariffs in Canada
The USMCA is taking effect amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Canada over a recent Trump administration threat to strike tariffs again on Canadian aluminum imports.
The U.S. is pushing for Canada to set quotas to slow the growth of its metal exports or face a 10 percent tariff. The resumption of tariffs, which were lifted in May 2019, is likely to cause retaliation from Canada for U.S. exports.
Business leaders on Tuesday, in a clear message to Trump, urged the three countries to resist imposing tariffs and barriers or other measures that would damage the objectives of the comprehensive trade agreement and weaken North America’s competition.
Trade without obligations will support the success of the agreement, said the leaders of the US Business Roundtable, the Business Council of Canada and Consejo Meksikano de Negocios in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Director of Minorities in the Senate Uckuk Schumer and other lawmakers have already begun to worry that Canada will avoid its commitments to open its tightly controlled milk market to US producers.
Canada, for its part, has dismissed that concern.
We have always been in full compliance with all the commitments we have made under ours [free trade agreements], included in the United States, and that will not change, Canadian Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman told POLITICO.
Expect clashes with Mexico
Some of the biggest points of contention are between the United States and Mexico. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said last month that he already envisions hot clashes with Mexico over work, biotechnology, intellectual property and energy on all issues of great interest to lawmakers at Capitol Hill.
The problems come mainly from the recent actions of the government and the Mexican Congress that make it more difficult for American companies to send their exports and invest in Mexico.
The Mexican Ministry of Environment under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not approved import permits for agricultural biotechnological products, such as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Mexican law allows them to be sold, but the country has mainly banned the entry of American companies into the Mexican market since L tookpez Obrador took office in December 2018.
Lighthizer, speaking at a hearing session at Houses and Vehicles, said he expects to use USMCA to force Mexico to begin approving U.S. exports of such farm goods.
The U.S. refinery industry is also seeking Lighthizer to fight a recent Mexican government move to change investment rules to favor the state-owned oil company Pemex at the expense of U.S. producers. Lighthizer said he expects to seek equal treatment from Mexico.
Mexico has a heavy rise in labor issues
Mexico has promised to complete the implementation of new labor laws, as required by the new trade agreement. Labor reforms give Mexican workers the right to vote in independent unions and cast secret ballots. The Trump administration, Democrats and unions are expected to pay close attention if Mexico meets those commitments.
Democrats and labor unions have already begun putting pressure on Mexico to offer. On Tuesday, a group of 59 Democrats, some of whom voted for USMCA, asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to push for the release of Mexican labor lawyer Susana Prieto, who was arrested last month on what critics say are phonetic accusations of inciting riots, threats and coercion.
Ways of the House and the Chairman of the Means Richard Neal said Tuesday separately that Mexico should do its best to ensure that workers’ rights are respected.
Mexico says it is working with confidence to improve its working conditions.
Without a doubt, we will have some challenges, because there are areas in which we are behind the US and Canada and we will have to achieve, – said the Mexican Ambassador to the US Martha Bárcena in POLITICO in an interview.
Changes in car production
One of the biggest differences between NAFTA and USMCA is stricter rules on how autos and North American vehicle parts qualify for reduced fees. Trump has long believed that such an action would help bring American jobs back from abroad.
The new rules, which aim to increase car production within the region, will require vehicle manufacturers to make significant and costly changes to the way they make their cars. Vehicle manufacturers have been given three to seven years, depending on the type of car, to fully comply with the new complicated rules.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has assessed that the new provisions will lead to a net growth of 28,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. Employment in the auto parts industry will increase, but slightly fewer Americans will make vehicles complete because the added costs production will lead to higher prices, thus reducing consumer demand, ITC said.
An economic profit can be years away
Trump has defended USMCA as the best and most important trade agreement ever made by the US, but the agreement is not expected to significantly increase trade within the region.
Most of the framework for this comes from NAFTA, which has already eliminated most tariffs between the US, Mexico and Canada.
The USMCA will develop the US economy at $ 68.2 billion, or 0.35 percent, by the sixth year in force, according to ITC.
However, many officials and trade experts say that the biggest strength of USMCA is its “modernization” chapters, which, in part, take into account how the Internet has changed trade since the beginning of NAFTA in 1994.
The revised agreement, for example, prohibits all three countries from enforcing digital product obligations such as movies, books or other broadcasting materials to win over technology companies such as Netflix and Amazon.
North American officials and economists agree that the USMCA coming into force is good news as it removes years of uncertainty arising from Trump’s threats to withdraw from NAFTA altogether.
The stability of the North American market and the reliability of our supply chains will be essential to bring all three countries to a place where we can recover from the challenges we are facing, Hillman said.
But business executives have warned that it will be difficult to take advantage of new benefits and follow the rules as companies try to recover from the pandemic.
Covid-19’s pandemic and economic downturn could make adapting to these new rules even more challenging, the heads of the US Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Mexican Consejo Coordinator Empresarial said on Wednesday.
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