On the NAFTA front, there were two further developments this past week of which we wanted to be sure you were aware.
The first was a notice from the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office published in the Federal Register on Tuesday requesting public comment and input on what the U.S. position should be in negotiations with Canada and Mexico to modernize NAFTA. Specifically, the USTR is interested in comments addressing the following topics:
(a) General and product-specific negotiating objectives for Canada and Mexico in the context of a NAFTA modernization.
(b) Economic costs and benefits to U.S. producers and consumers of removal of any remaining tariffs and removal or reduction of non-tariff barriers on articles traded with Canada and Mexico.
(c) Treatment of specific goods (described by HTSUS numbers), including comments on (1) Product-specific import or export interests or barriers, (2) Experience with particular measures that should be addressed in negotiations, and (3) Addressing any remaining tariffs on articles traded with Canada, including ways to address export priorities and import sensitivities related to Canada and Mexico in the context of the NAFTA.
(d) Customs and trade facilitation issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(e) Appropriate modifications to rules of origin or origin procedures for NAFTA qualifying goods.
(f) Any unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade imposed by Canada and Mexico that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(g) Relevant barriers to trade in services between the United States and Canada and Mexico that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(h) Relevant digital trade issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(i) Relevant trade-related intellectual property rights issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(j) Relevant investment issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(k) Relevant competition-related matters that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(l) Relevant government procurement issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(m) Relevant environmental issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(n) Relevant labor issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(o) Issues of particular relevance to small and medium-sized businesses that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(p) Relevant trade remedy issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
(q) Relevant state-owned enterprise issues that should be addressed in the negotiations.
Comments on these issues (or any others) must be submitted to USTR by June 12, 2017. In formulating any comments, it is important to keep in mind that this Administration has a different perspective than previous ones when it comes to modernizing or liberalizing NAFTA. We believe that this effort (at least from a US perspective) will be aimed more squarely at benefitting the United States than previous efforts (which may have looked more at benefitting the NAFTA region as a whole, or US companies with operations in Mexico or Canada). The following quote from the summary is clear (and consistent with the Administration’s messaging on trade to date):
“The United States intends to commence negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The NAFTA was negotiated more than 25 years ago, and, while our economy and U.S. businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not. The United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities under NAFTA.”
Emphasis added. A copy of the notice is available here.
The second development relates to a study the USTR requested the U.S. International Trade Commission undertake related to NAFTA imports. The study, entitled “Probable Economic Effect of Providing Duty-Free Treatment for Currently Dutiable Imports,” will examine the impact of providing duty-free treatment to imports of currently dutiable imports from Canada and Mexico. Specifically, the ITC will provide a report containing its advice as to the probable economic effect of providing such treatment on (i) industries in the United States producing like or directly competitive products, and (ii) consumers. The ITC has been asked to look at every dutiable article in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The ITC has also been asked to specifically address the probable economic effects of eliminating tariffs on any dutiable agricultural imports from Canada or Mexico.
The report is due by August 16, 2017. A copy of the ITC notice of initiation can be found here and the USTR’s letter to the ITC can be found here.
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These efforts to modernize NAFTA/trade with Canada and Mexico represent a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity. Every company that produces articles in the NAFTA territory, sources articles in the NAFTA territory or competes with articles produced or sourced in the NAFTA territory has a strong incentive to participate in this process. Given how quickly it is moving, companies need to assess their opportunities/challenges and decide how best to engage now. Those who do not do so will likely find themselves at a competitive disadvantage once this process is over.
We are helping numerous clients perform this assessment, as well as develop and implement strategies (offensive or defensive) to maximize the potential benefits. If you have any questions about how to go about this, please let us know.