Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Trump move with $1.2 trillion in trade could be risky — NAFTA

US president Donald Trump pledges to terminate NAFTA if no'fair deal US president Donald Trump pledges to terminate NAFTA if no'fair deal
Orlando Vargas | 07 May, 2017, 13:42

Trump assured the leaders of Canada and Mexico that the US will stay in NAFTA for now, after earlier threatening to withdraw from the 23-year old trade agreement. But it appeared to keep much of the existing agreement in place, including private tribunals that allow companies to challenge national laws on the grounds that they inhibit trade - a provision that critics say allows companies to get around environmental and labor laws.

"I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now", Trump told reporters at a brief media appearance with the Argentinian counterpart Mauricio Marci.

Trudeau said the pair had a good conversation Wednesday night and that Trump said he was seriously considering withdrawing from the 23-year-old pact. In essence, by signing NAFTA and agreeing to eliminate tariffs, Canada and Mexico did more to open their doors to trade than the US did.

Mexico, Canada and the United States form one of the world's biggest trading blocs, and trade disruptions among them could adversely affect agricultural, automotive, energy and other sectors across the globe, including in Australia.

Ross Perot famously called NAFTA a "giant sucking sound" that was taking American jobs to Mexico in 1992, and the benefits and trade-offs of the North American Free Trade Agreement are still being debated today.

During his election campaign Trump threatened to renegotiate NAFTA and in the past week complained bitterly about Canadian trade practices.

Mexico's Economy Minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, told business leaders at a recent meeting in Detroit that NAFTA should be modernized to better incorporate items like e-commerce, not because the deal is unfair to the U.S.

"It shows that I do have a very big farmer base, which is good", Trump recalled. "Now, if I'm unable to make a fair deal, if I'm unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA".

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By affirming his intention to reopen the agreement with Trudeau and Peña Nieto, Trump is able to fulfill a 100-day pledge to "announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA".

Canada said it was ready to come to talks on renewing NAFTA at any time. Relative calm returned yesterday after Trump's comments, and the Mexican peso strengthened 0.86 per cent against the USA dollar while the Canadian dollar was flat versus the greenback.

Tensions over Nafta rose to the surface days after the USA administration slapped a 24 per cent tariff on softwood lumber imports from Canada. It would alsohit USA agricultural exports hard.

"You can't sit back and let Trump control the agenda", Dias said.

Trump recently ramped up his criticism of Canada and this week ordered 20 percent tariffs on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, setting a tense tone as the three countries prepared to renegotiate the pact. "As we conveyed to our Mexican partners in our visit there earlier this year, NAFTA is very important to both our countries and has yielded strong benefits for agriculture". President Trump had not decided what to do at that point, so it was good timing that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau contacted him when he did.

Despite what Trump said, it's clear his administration is aware of the 90-day rule.

It is important to note that even if an executive order was drafted and signed, Trump can not simply pull out of NAFTA without some time passing.

Trump had previously stated his preference for bilateral trade agreements that he could negotiate with each individual country.


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