The News
Saturday 20 of July 2024

NAFTA Warm-up Round

Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo,photo: Cuartoscuro/Ildefonso Guajardo
Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo,photo: Cuartoscuro/Ildefonso Guajardo
This was the first round and like in a ring fight seldom do boxers throw their best punches

The Mexican North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators headed by Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo promised they’d keep secrecy regarding immediate results. They are sure keeping their word because it’s Monday, and we know virtually nothing beyond the opening day speeches last Wednesday.

Sure, this was the first round and like in a ring fight seldom do boxers throw their best punches. They prefer to do some shadow boxing to actually get going in the second round of negotiations, when things are starting to work up a sweat.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, in his presentation speech, repeated the objective of President Trump to cut down or outright eliminate the $66.4 billion trade deficit Mexico has with the United States, as well as forcing Mexico to improve wages.

As for the deficit Guajardo said this would be part of future negotiations and as for raising wages in Mexico, that’ll be a “no no” because “it is an internal affair of participating nations.”

As for Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, she said her nation would stay put on the stance that if Lighthizer tries to eliminate independent controversy settlement Chapter 19, Canada is out of the negotiations.

It is clear that Lighthizer’s initial bravo presentation only echoes President Trump’s wishes declared in the heat of a presidential campaign, like that Mexico has hurt U.S. workers with its participation and deficit. In the United States, there have been immediate responses to this, especially from influential and very conservative The Heritage Foundation, that this particular deficit does no damage to the U.S. economy and that the profile of working Americans is very different than the alleged 700,000 people who have lost their jobs due to NAFTA. Nobody is sayings jobs were not lost, but were they actually due to NAFTA? Of course, that was one of Trump’s post-truths that sounded like a truism to his voting cadre.

What we know of the first round is that the issue of rules of origin was touched upon with the U.S. trade representative team wanting to change original participation of U.S. parts of up to 80 percent.

Of course, negotiators will see about that.

One thing that stands out, and this is from just observing proceedings from far away, is that the U. S. Twitter-in-chief Donald Trump was mum during the first four days of negotiations in Washington.

And in Mexico, we’ve seen a bit of street demonstrations against the NAFTA negotiations by nationalist unions both of workers and agriculture related people who question the “legitimacy” of the President Enrique Peña Nieto to renegotiate NAFTA. “Mexico is better without an FTA” was the motto of the about 2,000 marchers in Mexico City who protested the start of renegotiations.

At best during a mid-week press conference, Secretary Guajardo repeated to the hilt that there must be a “win-win-win” agreement “otherwise it’s not an agreement” and in the closest he got to helping the United States reduce the trade deficit, he said that Mexico will push “to insure that the enormous trade deficits don’t continue but only as long efforts translate into a commercial increase.” We’ve heard that before.

One trick to keep the press from informing that the three nations are using is that at least the first two rounds of renegotiations have been held from Wednesday through Sunday, as the next one starts on Thursday Sept 1 and will be held through Sunday. For information timeliness purposes, Sunday is not a great days for news.

But surely eventually these warmer-uppers will start heating renegotiations and surely we will have to let a couple of months go by before we get a real inkling of the shape of things to come for NAFTA 2.