February 6, 2018 | by    

United States, Canada, Mexico Still Have A Lot To Settle After Sixth NAFTA Round

Canadian, U.S., and Mexican trade officials last week concluded their sixth round of discussions on how to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said there’s still a lot of work to do, the negotiators reportedly made progress on a few outstanding issues, including rules of origin governing automobiles and on a provision that would automatically sunset the agreement after a certain number of years.

How much progress was uncertain, however, and U.S. officials still clearly have issues with the rules of origin standards. In his statement at the end of the sixth round, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer strongly criticized Canada’s position, arguing that “the automobile rules of origin idea that was presented [by Canada], when analyzed, may actually lead to less regional content than we have now and fewer jobs in the United States, Canada, and likely Mexico.” Lighthizer also said, “In another proposal, Canada reserved the right to treat the United States and Mexico even worse than other countries if they enter into future agreements. Those other countries may, in fact, even include China, if there is an agreement between China and [Canada]. This proposal, I think if the United States had made it, would be dubbed a ‘poison pill.’”

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland had similarly harsh words last week for the United States. In remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations, Freeland called the Trump administration “explicitly protectionist” and said meshing the countries’ two views would be “a challenge.”

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill last week, more than three dozen U.S. senators sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him not to withdraw from NAFTA, a threat the president has made in the past. (Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that he doesn’t believe President Trump will do that, but then later said he might withdraw Canada.) The senators’ letter said, “Modernizing NAFTA to increase market access, expand energy exports to maximize domestic energy production and including provisions on intellectual property and e-commerce will make this agreement even more beneficial to the United States.”

Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) members who are interested in weighing in on the NAFTA deliberations should contact their representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to let them know how the elimination of NAFTA would affect their businesses, employees, and customers. Click here for contact information for every member of the House and here for senators. Click here to re-read MSCI’s own NAFTA negotiating priorities.

The next round of negotiations, the seventh, is scheduled for Feb. 26-March 6 and will be held in Mexico City.