Your guide to NAFTA talks - begin Aug. 16, 2017

Your guide to NAFTA talks - begin Aug. 16, 2017

Postby Oscar » Fri May 19, 2017 11:29 am

Your guide to the NAFTA talks expected to start on August 16

[ ... -august-16 ]

May 19, 2017 - 7:16 am

U.S. President Donald Trump's trade representative Robert Lighthizer has written a letter to Congress officially triggering the 90-day consultation period required to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This is a significant development and raises a number of questions.

1– When will the talks begin and conclude?
The triggering of the 90-day period means that the talks could begin as soon as August 16. And though it would be a tight timeline, the speculation is that the talks would have to be concluded by April 1 of next year, just months prior to the July 1, 2018 general election in Mexico. That said, Reuters notes that Lighthizer said yesterday he hopes the talks will be concluded even earlier – by the end of 2017.

The CBC reports, "[Foreign minister Chrystia] Freeland said it was premature to speak about the timelines for the talks. But all three countries know that elections next year – first the presidential vote in Mexico, and then midterms for the U.S. Congress – could be disruptive if progress isn't made before next spring."

CNN adds, "The time line to get a deal done is narrow. Trade negotiations often take years. But Mexico has presidential elections in July 2018 and President Enrique Pena Nieto can't run due to term limits. There's no guarantee its next president will cooperate with Trump on NAFTA given his anti-Mexico rhetoric. US congressional mid-term elections in the fall of 2018 may also weigh on the Trump administration to make progress."

2 – What will Trump demand in the upcoming talks?
The CBC notes, "The letter [to Congress] did not offer details about what the scope of these negotiations would include. Lighthizer writes about the need to update chapters that 'do not reflect modern standards' and mentions digital trade specifically as being only in its infancy when NAFTA was negotiated in the early 1990s. It [also] mentions the need for new provisions to 'address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labour, environment and small and medium enterprises'."

The specific negotiating objectives are expected to be published around July 16.

That said, a draft letter from the acting U.S. Trade Representative was leaked this past March and could suggest what the Trump administration will be seeking. Among the 40 negotiating objectives listed in that letter were:
• elimination of the Chapter 19 state-to-state dispute settlement provision
• an end to non-tariff barriers in agriculture (supply management)
• a border adjustment tax on foreign imports from Canada and Mexico
• increased duties on imports unless they contain a higher level of U.S. content
• a preferential 'Buy American' policy for government purchases
• an ability to 'safeguard' against a flood of Canadian or Mexican imports

3 – What is Trudeau seeking in a renegotiated NAFTA?
We don't know because there is not a similar requirement in Canada for the federal government to make public its negotiating objectives.

Yesterday, Freeland commented, “I’m not going to lay all my cards on the table now. I don’t think Canadians would like us to do that." This is a direct contradiction of Justin Trudeau's pledge in October 2015 when he commented on the Harper government's handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

At that time, Trudeau stated, "The Harper Conservatives have failed to be transparent through the entirety of the negotiations – especially in regards to what Canada is conceding in order to be accepted into this partnership. The government has an obligation to be open and honest about the negotiation process, and immediately share all the details of any agreement. Canadians deserve to know what impacts this agreement will have on different industries across our country."

Freeland also says, “NAFTA’s track record is one of economic growth and middle-class job creation, both here in Canada and throughout North America."

In Canada, imports destroyed more jobs than exports created – by 1997 the net destruction of jobs had reached 276,000. The loss of permanent, well-paid, and unionized jobs is not cause to boast of economic growth and middle-class job creation. In the name of competitiveness, unemployment insurance, health and education transfers, social assistance and housing programs were all 'harmonized downward' toward U.S. levels.

Furthermore, the Latin American news service Telesur reports, "According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Mexican poverty has risen since the deal's implementation in 1994 as economic growth and real wages stagnated while nearly 5 million family farmers were displaced, propelling Mexico's poor toward migration to the United States – crucial drivers of social instability and unrest."

4- What is our position?
The Council of Canadians has argued that the government should make clear what it is seeking in these talks (we have put forward this list of demands [ ... egotiation ]) and articulate its red lines (what it will not concede). We also argue that the Trudeau government should make a public statement that it is prepared to walk away from NAFTA should Trump's demands make the terms of an agreement untenable.

And we have highlighted that there should be public consultations as well as separate consultations with First Nations, given their rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples are impacted by NAFTA. Yesterday, Freeland claimed, “We will continue to consult closely with the provinces and territories, industry, unions, civil society, think tanks, academics, indigenous peoples, women, youth and the general public.” We have seen little evidence of meaningful consultation with the general public, civil society and Indigenous peoples and continue to press the government for real consultation and genuine transparency throughout the upcoming talks.

5 – What can you do?
You can tell Trudeau and Freeland through this online action alert [ ... ] that you want public consultations and Chapter 11, energy proportionality and water to be removed from NAFTA. You can also share new handimation videos on those three issues – investment, energy and water – that will be released in the coming weeks.

You can also meet with your Member of Parliament to tell them what you want to have changed in NAFTA and that you expect greater transparency through the entirety of trade negotiations (just as Trudeau promised just before he was elected). Please also keep visiting our website for updates and commentary as the talks get underway.

Brent Patterson's blog
Political Director of the Council of Canadians
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Re: Your guide to NAFTA talks - begin Aug. 16, 2017

Postby Oscar » Fri May 19, 2017 11:55 am

Trump sends NAFTA renegotiation notice to U.S. Congress: Council of Canadians says Trudeau must ensure talks protect people and the planet

[ ... ion-notice ]

Media Availability May 18, 2017

Stand up to Trump on Trade

U.S. President Donald Trump formally gave notice to U.S. Congress to renegotiate NAFTA today setting up a 90-day period before negotiations start. The Council of Canadians, the organization that first campaigned against NAFTA, says that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must hold the line on NAFTA negotiations, ensuring that renegotiations benefit people and the planet.

“We must make sure that NAFTA doesn’t harm the planet or our communities,” says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Already, there is fearful talk of putting parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership into the agreement which would enshrine corporate rights even further. We need to make sure that NAFTA is not a back-door negotiation for the privileged few. We need Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stand up for people and the planet.” -30-

For more information or to arrange interviews:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685, Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs
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Re: Your guide to NAFTA talks - begin Aug. 16, 2017

Postby Oscar » Sat May 20, 2017 12:03 pm

Is Trudeau standing up to Trump or ready to rebrand the TPP as the new NAFTA?

[ ... -new-nafta ]

May 20, 2017 - 7:33 am

Globe and Mail writers Parliamentary reporter Steven Chase, Washington correspondent Adrian Morrow and Quebec business correspondent Nicolas Van Praet argue in today's news that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing up to U.S. President Donald Trump on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The evidence doesn't support that (Trudeau has not yet asserted that he would be prepared to walk away from the deal if U.S. demands are too onerous), but there may be new reasons to be concerned that Trump, Trudeau and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto could try to rebrand the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a 'modernized' NAFTA.

Ultrafiltered milk pricing
The Globe and Mail writers note, "U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, pressed the Trudeau government behind closed doors last month to reverse a pricing decision on ultrafiltered milk that was pushing American dairy farmers out of the Canadian market. The pair wanted Ottawa to step in to placate the President, who had seized on the dispute to publicly blast Canada as a bad actor 'taking advantage' of the United States. But Canadian officials held firm, insisting they were not going to intervene in the dairy industry’s price-setting system and make concessions before the renegotiation of NAFTA had even started."

Bombardier vs Boeing Super Hornets
Chase, Morrow and Van Praet add, "The Boeing dispute began when the American company accused Canadian competitor Bombardier of illegally 'dumping' C Series jets in the United States because Bombardier has received subsidies from the federal and Quebec governments. The Department of Commerce opened an investigation, and could decide as early as July whether to slap tariffs on Bombardier. Rather than let the dispute play out in the U.S. system, Canada hit back, warning it would 'review' its plans to buy 18 fighter jets from Boeing, a contract that could be worth $12-billion between the cost of the planes and later maintenance."

Thermal coal exports
And they note, "Trade lawyer Mark Warner [notes Trudeau's] letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark agreeing to consider her request to block U.S. thermal-coal exports from the province’s ports as retaliation for American duties on softwood lumber." (That said, this stance was also likely related to Trudeau wanting Clark to win a provincial election and his letter to Clark only promised, "I have asked federal trade officials to further examine the request to inform our Government’s next steps.”)

Chapter 19
CBC Parliamentary Bureau reporter Janyce McGregor adds, "The Trump administration has mused about scrapping NAFTA's Chapter 19, which provides the arbitration panels that Canada and Mexico can use to appeal U.S. duties like [the one Trump just imposed on softwood lumber]. ...[Former trade negotiator Gordon] Ritchie [says] that American insistence on ending Chapter 19 — something Canada made concessions to get — could be a sticking point. 'On what planet could Canada agree to eliminate our barriers against imports … only to have the Americans agree to do the same, but with the right to, anytime they feel like it, slap on phony countervailing duties?'"

That all said, Chase, Morrow and Van Praet conclude, "At the same time, Ottawa will attempt to move the talks toward an update of NAFTA that would preserve the existing agreement but enhance it to make it more like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country pact that Canada and Mexico agreed to but Mr. Trump pulled out of during his first week in office. That deal covered the digital economy, which NAFTA does not, and included stronger labour and environmental provisions."

McGregor also notes the issues raised in U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's letter to Congress include "digital trade, intellectual property protections, and labour and environmental standards - [which] already appeared in the TPP all three countries negotiated in 2015. TPP language could be recycled, if everyone's politically savvy enough not to emphasize where it's from. (Trump and many in Congress still portray the TPP as a bad deal that the U.S. was right to bail on.)"

While some of this may be framed in the media as a "hardening strategy" on the part of the Trudeau government, it is also the case that: it would be premature to reverse pricing on ultrafiltered milk; it might appear very weak if Trudeau hadn't raised his government buying $12 billion of jet fighters from the U.S.; Trudeau hasn't followed up on banning thermal coal exports; and Trudeau's cabinet has reportedly discussed a billion-dollar compensation package for the Canadian industry (and could suggest a permanent tribunal to replace Chapter 19's ad hoc panel).

Most worrisome is the idea that Trump, Trudeau and Nieto might all be agreeable to a stealth rebranding of the TPP as a 'modernized' NAFTA.

While news reports suggest the three governments are in daily contact about NAFTA, the formal talks are expected to begin on August 16. The Council of Canadians will continue to follow the pre-talks and the actual negotiations, provide updates and analysis, and intervene in timely ways.

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