Trump hails NAFTA revamp, Trudeau calls it ‘win-win-win’
By KEN THOMAS and ROB GILLIES
Tuesday, October 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump hailed his revamped North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico as a breakthrough for U.S. workers on Monday, vowing to sign it by late November. But it still faces a lengthy path to congressional approval after serving for two decades as a political football for American manufacturing woes.
Embracing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which the Canadians joined just before a Sunday midnight deadline, Trump branded it the “USMCA,” a moniker he said would replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. With a satisfied smile, the president said the new name had a “good ring to it,” repeating U-S-M-C-A several times.
But he noted that the agreement would need to be ratified by Congress, a step that could be affected by the outcome of the fall elections as Democrats seek to regain majorities in the House and Senate. When a reporter suggested he seemed confident of approval after his announcement, he said he was “not at all confident” — but not because of the deal’s merits or defects.
“Anything you submit to Congress is trouble, no matter what,” Trump said, predicting that Democrats would say, “Trump likes it so we’re not going to approve it.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that his country was in a more stable place now that it had completed the negotiations. He said the deal needed to be fair since one trading partner was 10 times larger. He said Canada did not simply accept “any deal.”
“We got the right deal. We got a win-win-win for all three countries,” Trudeau said.
Likewise, outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said via Twitter that the deal negotiated over the past 13 months “achieves what we proposed at the beginning: a win-win-win agreement.”
Despite Trump’s jibe at the Democrats, their comments on the agreement were largely muted, though many lawmakers said the way the provisions of the deal are enforced would be critical.
“As someone who voted against NAFTA and opposed it for many years, I knew it needed fixing. The president deserves praise for taking large steps to improve it,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. He said any final agreement “must be judged on how it benefits and protects middle class families and the working people in our country.”
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said that while the plan included “some improvements that could be good for U.S. workers, it lacks enforcement mechanisms that are necessary for these policies to succeed.”
Trump, for his part, said the accord would return the United States to a “manufacturing powerhouse.”
In fact, the U.S. has always been a manufacturing powerhouse and by some projections — made before he took office — is expected to be No. 1 in 2020.
The new agreement was forged just before a midnight deadline imposed by the U.S. to include Canada in a deal reached with Mexico late in the summer. It replaces NAFTA, which Trump has lambasted as a job-wrecking disaster that has hollowed out the nation’s industrialized base.
NAFTA has long been a lightning rod for criticism among labor unions and manufacturing workers since it was being negotiated in the early 1990s during President George H.W. Bush’s administration and later implemented by President Bill Clinton.
During the 1992 presidential campaign, independent candidate Ross Perot famously predicted a “giant sucking sound” as NAFTA pulled U.S. factory jobs into Mexico.
The new version would give U.S. farmers greater access to the Canadian dairy market. But it would keep the former North American Free Trade Agreement dispute-resolution process that the U.S. wanted to jettison. It offers Canada protection if Trump goes ahead with plans to impose tariffs on cars, trucks and auto parts imported into the United States.
NAFTA reduced most trade barriers in North America, leading to a surge in trade between the three countries. But Trump and other critics said it encouraged manufacturers to move south of the border to take advantage of low-wage Mexican wages.
The new pact will require regional content of 75 percent for automobiles, and also that 40 to 45 percent of vehicles coming to the U.S. be produced in plants paying at least $16 per hour. Mexico’s incoming foreign relations secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, said some new regulations may pose challenges for companies to adapt to. However, he also said that “finishing this process of renegotiation provides certainty for financial markets, investment and job creation in our country.”
In all, Trump said, the pact covers $1.2 trillion in trade.
For Trump, the agreement offered vindication for his hardline trade policies that have roiled relations with China, the European Union and America’s North American neighbors while causing concerns among Midwest farmers and manufacturers worried about retaliation. Trump’s advisers view the trade pact as a political winner in battleground states critical to the president’s 2016 victory and home to tens of thousands of auto workers and manufacturers who could benefit from the changes.
Trump said he would sign the final agreement in late November, in about 60 days, and the pact is expected to be signed by Trudeau and by Mexico’s Pena Nieto who leaves office Dec. 1. Trump said he spoke to Trudeau by phone and that their recent tensions didn’t affect the deal-making. “He’s a professional. I’m a professional,” Trump said, calling it a “fair deal.”
Canada, the United States’ No. 2 trading partner, is by far the No. 1 destination for U.S. exports, and the U.S. market accounts for 75 percent of what Canada sells abroad.
But the president said his administration had not yet agreed to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, a contentious issue between the two neighbors.
Trump has used U.S. tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of imported goods from China and other nations as a negotiating tactic and said the North American deal offered evidence that his approach was working. “Without tariffs, we wouldn’t be standing here,” he said.
The future of the agreement has also been a major issue in Mexico, where Pena Nieto will be replaced by President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in December. Uncertainty over the fate of NAFTA talks had threatened to batter Mexico’s currency and economic outlook.
Ratifying the deal is likely to stretch into 2019 because once Trump and the leaders from Canada and Mexico sign the agreement, the administration and congressional leaders will need to write legislation to implement the deal and win passage in Congress.
“The bar for supporting a new NAFTA will be high. NAFTA has had many critics over the years and its flaws are well-known,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass. “Like me, many of my colleagues did not support the deal originally. And those who did will have serious questions that they need answered before doing so again.”
Gillies reported from Toronto. AP Writers Paul Wiseman and Kevin Freking reported from Washington.
How is ‘new NAFTA’ different? A trade expert explains
October 2, 2018
Amanda M. Countryman
Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics, Colorado State University
Amanda M. Countryman receives funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.
Colorado State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
On Sept. 30, the U.S., Canada and Mexico reached a deal to scrap NAFTA and replace it with a new trade accord, narrowly meeting a self-imposed deadline for consensus.
Although U.S. President Donald Trump plans to sign the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement in 60 days, the new accord has a long road ahead as lawmakers in all three countries must still pass it before it goes into effect.
Still it is an astounding feat, considering Mexico and the U.S. were all but ready to go ahead with their own deal without Canada only a month ago, after a year of three-party negotiations. And Trump repeatedly said he was ready to scrap the deal entirely, which in my opinion would have been the worst outcome.
So what’s changed from the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement and why should you care?
The text of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is 1,809 pages long – about 100 more than NAFTA – and includes numerous tweaks from its predecessor, both big and small. I believe three are especially noteworthy.
Please pass the butter
Since 1994, the U.S. and Canada have dropped tariffs and other trade restrictions on most agricultural products, but there were a few exceptions, most notably dairy.
Dairy was a particularly problematic sticking point in the recent negotiations as the U.S. and Canada both have long histories of protectionist policies such as subsidies to dairy farmers, import quotas on milk and Canadian tariffs that range from 200 percent to 300 percent for exporting too much of a given product.
The new NAFTA begins to change that, representing a big win for both countries, especially the U.S.
Under the new accord, Canada pledged to curb some of the ways it protects its dairy industry. As a result, more American milk, butter, cheese and other dairy products will flow into Canada duty-free, with reciprocal treatment for Canadian dairy exports to the U.S.
Made in North America
The new agreement made big changes for auto manufacturers in hopes of ensuring more of those products are made in North America.
Starting in 2020, to qualify for zero tariffs when crossing borders, a car or truck must have 75 percent of its components manufactured in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico, up from 62.5 percent currently.
Even more noteworthy, negotiators agreed to a new requirement that 40 percent to 45 percent of a vehicle’s components be made by workers earning at least US$16 per hour, which is about three times more than the average wage currently earned by Mexican autoworkers.
This change is huge, particularly for low-paid workers in Mexico.
Keeping up with the times
Almost a quarter century has passed since NAFTA was implemented in 1994.
And much has changed. The internet was still in its infancy, while smartphones and self-driving cars were barely imaginable.
That’s why modernization – updating rules and standards to keep up with the times – is a critical and positive update to the trade deal tying the North American continent together.
While NAFTA was the first trade treaty to include intellectual property protections, the high pace of innovation has made modernization of its provisions imperative.
The new agreement includes stronger protections for patents and trademarks in areas such as biotech, financial services and domain names – all of which have advanced considerably over the past quarter century. It also contains new provisions governing the expansion of digital trade and investment in innovative products and services.
Separately, negotiators agreed to update labor and environmental standards, which were not central to the 1994 accord and are now typical in modern trade agreements. Examples include enforcing a minimum wage for autoworkers, stricter environmental standards for Mexican trucks and lots of new rules on fishing to protect marine life.
Apart from the changes, there is one important thing about the original NAFTA that will stay, thanks to the insistence of Canada. Chapter 19 is the dispute settlement mechanism that allows countries to seek remedies for breaking the rules. It’s like “trade court” and makes it much easier to challenge another country’s policies.
All in all, the new NAFTA is definitely a modern and updated version of its important predecessor, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture characterized as one of the most successful trade agreements in history. But the question remains, will Congress and the other two parliaments pass it?
NAFTA has been replaced, but at what cost to Canada?
October 1, 2018
Associate Professor of Political Science, Brock University
Blayne Haggart receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He is also currently a research fellow with the Centre for Global Cooperation Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany.
Brock University provides funding as a member of The Conversation CA.
The most remarkable thing in the immediate aftermath of the announcement that Canada and the United States had concluded their North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations is the general relief it seems to be eliciting.
Typical of the mood is the contention of the Globe and Mail’s Campbell Clark, who opines that the deal limits direct damage to the Canadian economy via “a series of concessions that the Liberal government accepted to buy peace.”
Unfortunately, the peace promised by the newly renamed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is likely to be temporary, its true price still unclear.
The USMCA may stop most U.S. harassment for now. (American steel and aluminium tariffs are still in place, after all).
But two key sections of the USMCA — the six-year mandatory review and a limitation on negotiating free-trade agreements with non-market economies (in other words, China) — suggest that this temporary armistice has been bought at a cost.
That cost is placing the U.S. in a position of unprecedented authority over its neighbours’ ability to craft their own domestic and international economic agendas.
Benefits of normal trade deals absent
One of the under-appreciated advantages of trade agreements for smaller countries like Canada is that the pacts actually provide those nations with more room to manoeuvre than they might have had otherwise.
Without trade deals, larger countries like the United States leverage the promise of access to their market, and the threat of restricted access, to convince other countries to adopt U.S.-friendly policies.
Normal trade agreements take that leverage off the table. In my 2014 book Copyfight: The Global Politics of Digital Copyright Reform, for example, I found that despite strong U.S. preferences for more protectionist digital-copyright reforms, Canada’s 2012 Copyright Modernization Act was able to implement policies that primarily reflected Canadian interests.
Canada, protected by NAFTA, implemented a much less censorious form of liability limitation for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) whose users upload allegedly copyright-infringing material than what the United States had hoped. Canada also kept its copyright term limit at what’s known as “life of the author” plus 50 years.
That autonomy can disappear in trade negotiations: Everything is linked and everything is on the table. In the new USMCA, while Canada was able to keep its ISP liability framework (which Canadian copyright expert Michael Geist calls an “easy giveaway for U.S. negotiators”), Canada must now extend its copyright term to the life of the author plus 70 years. (Mexico also would have to adopt the U.S.-style ISP liability framework.)
And far from reducing American leverage, the USMCA would keep the negotiations going. Article 34.7 requires a “joint review” of the agreement after six years.
Moment of reckoning postponed
The countries must also “review any recommendations for action submitted by a Party (country), and decide on any appropriate actions.” If a country “does not confirm its wish to extend the term of the agreement,” the countries must hold joint yearly reviews until the end of the (16-year) agreement.
The spectre of this review would likely make Canadian policy-makers hesitant about implementing policies that may upset the United States and thus threaten the entire economic relationship.
This effect would be similar to the “regulatory chill” associated with NAFTA’s Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement mechanism — it fuelled governments’ reluctance to regulate in some areas due to the fear that a foreign company would sue them for doing so.
This dynamic is intentional. According to a senior U.S. official, the review process will “give the U.S. a ‘significant new form of leverage’ to make sure the arrangement is to its liking.” It will also almost inevitably invite abuse from companies seeking to change the rules to their advantage.
The relief that the United States didn’t make things even worse for Canada should be tempered by the realization that the moment of reckoning hasn’t passed; it’s only been postponed.
Locking Canada in the U.S. orbit
Normal trade agreements also usually just cover trade among its members, not their ability to negotiate with other countries. This makes Article 32.10 very odd.
It would make it incredibly difficult for Canada or Mexico to negotiate a free-trade agreement with a “non-market country,” which pretty obviously means China. Should one of the USMCA countries do so, the other two could kick it out of the club with six months’ notice.
It’s hard to read this as anything but a way to further lock Canada and Mexico into the U.S. orbit, restricting their ability to counterbalance against overwhelming American economic influence. Its presence requires explanation.
The bottom line is this — the world has changed. The United States is willing to act coercively against Canada in ways that had been unthinkable since the end of the Second World War.
Canadian economic well-being depends on the United States (although the reverse is also true). Maybe these drastic concessions were necessary to preserve the Canadian economy. Then again, sometimes the solution is worse than the problem.
No matter. In judging the USMCA, we should not shy away from acknowledging that the price Canada and Mexico have paid for temporary economic peace with the United States is steep, transformative and likely to be long-lasting.
OPINION: Hug a journalist today
July 15, 2017
By Bob Morrison
Donald Trump, Jr has admitted arranging a meeting with someone introduced to him as a representative of the Russian government. The stated purpose of the meeting was to receive Russian information that might damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy (and thereby help his dad’s). Junior had already been notified that the help would be provided as “…part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump…” He angrily denied all of this until he learned that persistent journalists had proof. Then he began trying to explain it away.
Junior Trump arranged for candidate Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner to join him in a meeting with the Russian. It was held at the Trump Tower in June 2016 while candidate Trump was present in the building; but the President’s press secretary now says that Trump knew nothing about it until the New York Times broke the story.
This stunning news contradicts a full year of denials by Donald Trump and his entire team of any Russian involvement or support for their campaign; and it’s clear that they would not have admitted it if the press had not uncovered evidence. Do you believe that Junior Trump brought people that he had been told represented Russian government into Trump tower for a meeting with Senior Trump’s top advisers and none of them mentioned it to Senior Trump? You can bet that journalists will be digging for evidence, one way or the other.
However they voted, most Americans wanted to believe the Trump team was honest. Many still do, but evidence of lies and deception began mounting even before the inauguration. They have blamed it on “leakers”, on the FBI Director’s incompetence, on fake news, and on the mainstream (lamestream they like to call it) press. Without professional journalists digging for facts we would have little basis for judging the integrity of our officeholders, regardless of political affiliation.
This phenomenon is not limited to the Trump administration. It was the press who broke the story of the Pentagon Papers with evidence that multiple administrations intentionally misled the public and the Congress about our involvement in Vietnam and the ensuing war. They documented President’s Nixon’s crimes including the Watergate burglary and his “plumbers” unit which burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to obtain medical records that would discredit an opponent of the war. Those stories resulted in Nixon’s resignation and Johnson’s decision to not seek reelection. It was the press who uncovered and reported on J. Edgar Hoover’s abuse of his power as FBI Director, including spying on Dr Martin Luther King, Jr in order to obtain any information that could be used to blackmail him.
Government officials who had violated public trust tried to cover up and deny their misdeeds. They blamed leakers, liars and biased reporters. They even arrested and jailed journalists for reporting true stories. But journalists and news organizations persist. They not only cover world-changing news, journalists are the ones who keep us informed about state legislatures, school boards, health departments, city councils, sports and weather. Because of them we know that Flint is only one of the cities with lead in its water. They inform our discussions about the local effects of charter schools, climate change, and myriads of issues affecting our lives.
Journalism can be messy. Some organizations sensationalize news in hopes of improved TV ratings or ad sales to the point where an arrest for jay-walking sounds like “breaking news”. Some have liberal or conservative or religious or ethnic biases. Just choosing which stories to cover and which to pass up is based on the judgments of journalists and editors. And sometimes even the best of journalists make mistakes.
We Americans have plenty of sources with lots of different perspectives and fortunately for us they tend to fact-check each other. If we’re paying attention we can check their accuracy by comparing several sources. And if any news organization is consistently wrong with the facts, they eventually pay a price in public trust.
At this critical time in our history journalists are ferreting out facts despite concerted efforts to stop them; and truth is gradually emerging. Without them, our freedom would be imperiled. It is indeed the truth that makes us free. This is a good time to hug and thank a journalist.
Report: 1000s of DNA profiles missing from databases
LANCASTER, Ohio (AP) — An investigation into the legally required collection of DNA from adults arrested for felonies or convicted of some misdemeanors in Ohio shows thousands of DNA profiles missing from state and national crime databases.
The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette — part of the USA Today Network-Ohio — reports missing profiles include those for people accused of rape and other violent crimes. The network’s investigation shows some police agencies and courts are failing to collect the DNA profiles.
DNA information collected from people convicted of violent crimes and other offenses are uploaded to Ohio’s DNA system and shared with the FBI database so it can be searched against evidence in unsolved crimes.
The newspaper reports the total number of missing DNA profiles is unknown, but the investigation found several widespread collection gaps.
Information from: Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, http://www.lancastereaglegazette.com