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October 29, 2018

An Update On U.S. Trade Discussions

The United States continues to engage in trade discussions on many fronts, including with Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Talks with China, however, are still off the table. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that “The U.S. is refusing to resume trade negotiations with China until Beijing comes up with a concrete proposal to address Washington’s complaints about forced technology transfers and other economic issues.” The two parties haven’t met since September.

Regarding North American counterparts, Bloomberg reported last week that the Trump administration remains committed to continued talks with the Canadian and Mexican governments regarding its Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum. U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft confirmed the ongoing negotiations and, in remarks with Canadian Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton said the tariffs are “not something that is against Canada … “It’s just protecting North America from other countries that will be passing raw materials through, and also to protect our steel industry at home.”

Mexican officials, meanwhile, said last week that they want the matter settled before the country signs the new trade pact between the three countries. According to Canada’s Financial Post, echoing what Canadian officials have said recently, Juan Carlos Baker, Mexico’s deputy commerce minister, also said his country won’t accept any United States proposal to agree to a quota system on metals as a way for the U.S. to remove the duties.

Also regarding the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs: American Metal Market) (AMM, subscription required) reported last week that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has asked that the Trump administration exempt Colombia from the tariffs. Sen. Rubio said, “Negotiations with Colombia should be a priority … Under outgoing President [Juan Manuel] Santos, Colombia pledged to cooperate on addressing a variety of deficiencies in the treatment of certain US industries to strengthen the US-Colombia relationship. It is essential that our government continue to work with President Iván Duque and his administration to ensure Colombian commitments are upheld.”

Meanwhile, U.S. and European Union officials met in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss regulatory issues that eventually could be part of a transatlantic trade deal. According to Politico, an EU official cautioned “These discussions are a preliminary and indispensable step for the Commission to request a negotiating mandate from EU Member States before engaging in formal negotiations.” As Connecting the Dots reported last summer, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July to begin negotiations on a new trade pact with the United States in exchange for U.S. President Donald Trump agreeing not to impose tariffs on European automobiles.