Stakeholders of all stripes have weighed in on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) this year, as renegotiation talks have now gone through four rounds.
Negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico most recently met Oct. 11-17 for a fourth round of talks in Arlington, Virginia. Despite progress on some issues, the talks overall seem to have hit an impasse.
As a result, the talks appear set to extend into 2018, which was previously hoped to be avoided, as elections are scheduled next year in each country. Among other things, U.S. proposals of a sunset clause and tighter automotive rules of origin have led to friction, as the U.S. attempts to negotiate what it considers to be a more beneficial deal while Canada and Mexico hope to preserve the deal (while also modernizing it for the 21st century).
According to a trilateral statement released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the negotiating parties made some progress on a few issues.
“Building on the progress made in prior rounds, the United States, Canada, and Mexico have now substantively completed discussions in the Chapter on Competition,” the statement reads.
“Additionally, negotiators made progress in several other negotiating groups, including customs and trade facilitation, digital trade, good regulatory practices, and certain sectoral annexes.”
However, it’s clear the parties are still far apart on a number of other issues.
In Oct. 17 remarks, Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico’s economy secretary, cautioned that negotiations must yield a “win-win-win” result, and that none of the parties want to end the process “empty-handed.”
“Working together, we can find the necessary balances to achieve a NAFTA consistent with the reality of our economies and societies,” he said.
While a number of groups — namely, U.S. workers associations — have petitioned the Trump administration to point out the negative impacts of NAFTA, others have worked to tout the agreement’s positive impacts.
Auto associations are among the latest to petition the administration in that latter capacity.
According to a Reuters report, major automakers, suppliers and auto dealers are launching a coalition to convince President Trump not to withdraw from the trade agreement (a threat the president has made on more than one occasion this year).
According to the report, auto trade associations representing General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen AG, Hyundai Motor Co and Ford Motor Co, among other major automakers, on Tuesday launched the “Driving American Jobs” coalition, which includes an advertising campaign that aims to showcase the positive impacts of NAFTA on the automotive sector and the American workforce.
“American automakers are driving the revival of American manufacturing,” said Governor Matt Blunt, President of the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), in a prepared statement. “When you examine the data there’s no question that NAFTA has helped advance the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry sector. Now we have an opportunity to strengthen North America as a manufacturing powerhouse with a modern NAFTA that maintains the features that are working and makes improvements to benefit American workers and jobs. We look forward to working with the coalition, the Trump administration, members of Congress and all stakeholders to ensure American autos remain competitive in our global economy.”
The effort includes a website, www.drivingamericanjobs.com, which touts the trade agreement’s benefits to the sector and the American workforce, including a section of “American worker stories.”
“The American worker is in the middle of the greatest manufacturing comeback of all time,” the website’s homepage reads. “We’re winning with NAFTA. Tell Washington: Don’t change the game in the middle of a comeback.”
The effort comes on the heels of an Oct. 10 letter, undersigned by 310 local and state chambers of commerce, addressed to President Trump.
“We look forward to working closely with you and your Administration to grow the economy and create jobs through free and fair trade,” the letter concludes. “To help facilitate that growth, we urge you to support America’s workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses of all sizes by protecting and preserving the deep economic ties and benefits the United States continues to enjoy under NAFTA.”
In a release from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue underscored the aforementioned sentiment.
“We’ve reached a critical moment, and the Chamber has had no choice but to ring the alarm bells,” Donohue said. “Let me be forceful and direct. There are several poison pill proposals still on the table that could doom the entire deal.
“The U.S. business community will stand up for an important agreement that makes North America stronger and more prosperous.”
A fifth round of renegotiation talks is scheduled for Nov. 17-21 in Mexico City.