The Sprint to Revise NAFTA Has Millions of Jobs on the Line

8/21/2017 The Hill

By Earl Anthony Wayne, Global Fellow & Advisory Board Member, Mexico Institute

Modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is beginning with a “sprint.” The three governments have agreed to an accelerated set of negotiating rounds to see if they can forge an updated arrangement for trade between Mexico, Canada and the United States by early 2018. It will be a tough dash, with immensely important stakes.

The early “sprint” is because Mexico’s July 2018 presidential and congressional elections close the political window for approval of an agreement in Mexico by early 2018. Delay will prolong the uncertainty, including on what positions a new Mexican team might take. If the “sprint” does not work, the negotiations will shift to a jog, until after a new Mexican president enters office in December 2018.

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U.S. lays out ambitious schedule for NAFTA talks as opening round concludes

8/20/2017 LA Times 

Clinton signing NAFTA

After the opening round of talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement, at least this much is known: The U.S. is pushing for comprehensive changes and racing to meet a tight political calendar.

In a joint statement issued Sunday upon conclusion of the first session, trade officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico outlined an aggressive schedule for future meetings. They will reconvene Sept. 1-5 in Mexico and then later that month in Canada, to be followed by another round in Washington in October.

The accelerated pace is aimed at wrapping up talks by the end of the year, or early 2018 at the latest, to avoid political complications in Mexico’s presidential vote in the summer and the U.S. midterm elections later in the fall.

But it is far from clear how realistic that timetable is, given the ambitious plans outlined by the Trump administration to rewrite major sections of the 23-year-old pact, including the United States’ much-opposed focus on reducing the country’s trade deficit and strengthening its hand in enforcement.

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8/20/2017 LA Times 

Clinton signing NAFTA

After the opening round of talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement, at least this much is known: The U.S. is pushing for comprehensive changes and racing to meet a tight political calendar.

In a joint statement issued Sunday upon conclusion of the first session, trade officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico outlined an aggressive schedule for future meetings. They will reconvene Sept. 1-5 in Mexico and then later that month in Canada, to be followed by another round in Washington in October.

The accelerated pace is aimed at wrapping up talks by the end of the year, or early 2018 at the latest, to avoid political complications in Mexico’s presidential vote in the summer and the U.S. midterm elections later in the fall.

But it is far from clear how realistic that timetable is, given the ambitious plans outlined by the Trump administration to rewrite major sections of the 23-year-old pact, including the United States’ much-opposed focus on reducing the country’s trade deficit and strengthening its hand in enforcement.

Read more… 

U.S. did not detail request for auto rules of origin at NAFTA talks: source

8/19/2017 Reuters 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the opening NAFTA session of talks, the United States did not give precise details of how much it wanted to boost North American content for autos, a source directly familiar with the negotiations said on Saturday.

Robert Lighthizer, President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser, this week said Washington wanted tougher rules of origin for autos, which determine how much of a vehicle must be built in the three NAFTA nations.

He also said the United States was seeking new measures to ensure “substantial U.S. content” for autos.

Companies wishing to take advantage of free trade in goods guaranteed by NAFTA must currently meet the 62.5 percent North American content requirement for autos and 60 percent for components.

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Some 115 migrants rescued from truck in eastern Mexico: official

8/20/2017 Reuters 

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Police in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz have rescued 115 migrants, including 41 minors, traveling in “in deplorable conditions” in a truck, a state official said on Sunday.

The migrants were found at Playa Munecos in Veracruz, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

There were 55 men, 19 women, 23 boys and 18 girls. The two people driving the truck were arrested, the official said.

In July, eight migrants were found dead inside a suspicious tractor trailer in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio in Texas. At least 100 illegal immigrants were packed in the sweltering tractor-trailer and two more died later. The driver was indicted this month.

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What Would a Better NAFTA Look Like?

8/19/2017 The Atlantic 

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which lays out rules for how companies in Mexico, Canada, and the United States cross borders to do business, has become something of a punching bag. As a candidate, Donald Trump called it a “disaster.” So did Bob King, the former president of the United Auto Workers. “For countless Americans, this agreement has failed,” Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, said in a statement Wednesday morning, as he joined representatives from Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the trade deal. Among the complaints: NAFTA made it easier for companies to outsource jobs to Mexico, which led to lower wages for the American workers competing for the work that was left.

Not everyone agrees that NAFTA was bad for U.S. workers—some studies suggestthat manufacturing employment would have declined anyway, and that NAFTA and other trade deals helped U.S. companies become more profitable, which in turn helped U.S. workers. Still, negotiators from the three member countries are tasked with improving the deal. And they may not be able to do much in that regard as they meet to hash out a new version of the trade agreement, which they hope to reach an agreement on by the beginning of 2018. That’s in part because failure—at least from the point of view of American workers—is baked into the format of modern trade agreements. Trade agreements are no longer just about reducing quotas or tariffs on products imported by member countries. Instead, modern trade agreements are, as Dani Rodrik, a Harvard economist, argues in a forthcoming book, “designed largely with the needs of capital in mind,” meaning that they protect investors and companies and their interests overseas, and do little to ensure that workers and consumers are getting a fair deal.

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When Will Mexico Start To Frack For Natural Gas?

8/19/2017 Forbes 

Mexico has fracked just a few test wells, while the U.S. has had nearly 2 million commercial ones. Mexico hasn’t yet produced shale gas, compared to the U.S., which now that the Anadarko play in Oklahoma has been added to the EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report on 7 shale plays is producing 60 Bcf/d of shale gas – over 80% of total national production (here).

Thanks to the 2013 Energy Reforms that loosened monopoly laws, Mexico’s energy sector is now far more open to foreign investment. The National Hydrocarbons Commission envisions fracking from unconventionals within a few years, but probably no significant levels until sometime after that.

There are key obstacles to producing shale gas in Mexico: a lack of knowledge on unconventional resource geology, higher costs, smaller service industry, poor regulatory framework, pipeline dearth, lack of security amid narco-trafficking, water shortages, and others. Not to mention that the recent massive demonstrations against rising fuel costs: deregulation was sold to a skeptical public as the path to “lower prices.”

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