NAFTA redo: Nobody said it would be easy

By Sandi Soendker, Land Line editor-in-chief | 8/16/2017

The United States, Canada and Mexico negotiators are at the table this week, as trade reps meet in Washington, D.C., to hammer out a new menu for modernizing the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Senior officials from Canada and Mexico reportedly opened discussions paying respect to the success of the trilateral agreement. The Trump administration’s position holds that the free trade agreement “failed many Americans.” Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s trade czar, said this week in opening statements that the president was not interested in “a mere tweaking” of the pact.

According to news sources, the three trade pact member nations are already at odds over how to settle disputes. Disputes have long been decided by dispute-resolution panels, which are created by Chapter 19. The Wall Street Journal reported today that the Trump administration wants to do away with the dispute panels. In the past, they have made decisions that did not please the U.S. Canada and Mexico both are adamant that the Chapter 19 dispute panels remain in place.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released its summary of objectives for the NAFTA renegotiation last month, an 18-page document summarizing specifics of the White House’s wish list. The list was created after the Trump administration held meetings to solicit input and the USTR held three days of public hearings. In the hearings, more than 140 witnesses provided testimony, including OOIDA’s Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

According to the USTR, the wish list of objectives reflect the “valuable input received during the preceding consultation period from Congress, advisory committees, other agencies, and members of the public.”

Although there’s nothing specific in the general objectives about cross-border trucking, Spencer says that is certainly no reason to assume it will not be renegotiated.

OOIDA has made it clear to the Trump administration that the cross-border trucking program with Mexico, which allows long-haul trucking beyond commercial zones, should be dropped.

“The system we have that has been in place for years – trailers being swapped at the border – and that has been going on with Mexico for years. And it works well,” he said. “For economic reasons, it doesn’t really work for Mexican truckers to cross the border and go too far beyond the commercial zones.”

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