Secretary Ross and the Commerce Department Wrongly Conclude NAFTA Rules are Bad for the U.S.

10/4/2017 Forbes

Flag_of_the_North_American_Free_Trade_Agreement_(standard_version).svgBy Luis de la Calle

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross published an important op-ed (These NAFTA rules are killing our jobs) in the Washington Post this past Friday, September 22nd.  In it, he claims to offer a serious analysis to show that the trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and lower U.S. value-added in Mexican and Canadian U.S. imports are proof the United States is losing under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Secretary Ross aims to end the “loose talk” about industrial integration for automobile production in the region.

The problem with the article and the U.S. Department of Commerce paper it is based on is that they cherry pick statistics out of the March 2017, Trade in Value-Added (TiVA) database by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in an attempt to confirm the Trump’s administration bias that trade deficits are bad and lead to job losses.  This wrongheaded approach (the trade deficit with Mexico does not harm the United States) does a growing disservice to the comprehension of the importance of international trade for the economy and further politicizes the issue. More worryingly, it shows civil service officers can be influenced so that their analysis comports with White House views on trade.

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Learning From The Experience Of NAFTA Labor And Environmental Governance

8/11/2017 Forbes

forbesAs negotiators from the United States, Mexico, and Canada prepare to begin talks on a renegotiated NAFTA agreement, this is an opportune moment to think about how to strengthen trilateral oversight in the important areas of labor and environmental policy. The Trump Administration published its negotiating objectives in July, and they included the aim to strengthen both labor and environmental oversight within NAFTA. Clear lessons can be drawn from the NAFTA experience about what worked and what did not, and how civil society participated and evolved.

NAFTA included two side agreements, one on the environment and one on labor. The purpose was to pressure all three member states to uphold their own laws in these areas. Mexico’s inclusion in NAFTA was the original rationale, but the requirements applied to all three countries. Non-compliance was not to be tolerated.

What happened next is very important. The side agreements created routes for civil society to complain about non-compliance, and therefore contribute to governance. Although many see the side agreements as worthless, they did have a significant impact on Mexican civil society, and to an extent, governance in Mexico too. The way this happened is less obvious and less understood than trade or investment-led change, but it is worth our attention. In fact, the impact of the labor and environmental side agreements differed, because their institutions and procedures differed – and therein lies an important lesson. Let’s look at both in turn.

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Trump to Announce Plans for Renegotiation of NAFTA: Five Ways to Improve the Agreement

1/23/2017 Mexico Institute Forbes Blog

trump-inaugurationPresident Trump’s road to victory was built on a promise to fight on behalf of the American worker to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States. Rightly or wrongly, Donald Trump and many other Americans put much of the blame for the immense challenges being faced by the working class on NAFTA and other free trade agreements.

The newly updated White House website states, “President Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA.” However, “if our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, then the President will give notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw from NAFTA.” Media reports suggest an executive order for a NAFTA renegotiation may be imminent.

An outright withdrawal from NAFTA would be incredibly costly. A Wilson Center study recently found that nearly five million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico, and a good number of them would be put at risk were the agreement to be scrapped. At this point, U.S. and Mexican companies have invested many billions of dollars in each other’s economies to build up a globally competitive regional manufacturing platform upon which cars and other products are jointly manufactured with parts and materials from suppliers dispersed across the continent.

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The View from Mexico | Border Adjustment Tax: Economic Impact & WTO Consistency

1/18/2017 Forbes.com, Mexico Institute Blog

By Luis de la Calle

Donald Trump has been elected U.S. President as disrupter in chief; somebody that can get things done and change the status quo.

One of the centerpieces of his program appears to be a complete revamp of the U.S. tax system. “I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone. And that is why I am one that can truly fix them,” he said several times in debates and rallies. The idea is to end up with a system that favors investment on infrastructure and capital goods.

His background as a developer and his penchant for not paying taxes have led him to believe that the best way to promote growth and generate government revenue is taxing consumption rather than investment. Furthermore, his infrastructure ambitions need significant private investment funds that might only come with a favorable regime. The idea is to prompt firms and banks holding more than a trillion dollars in cash to put it to work.

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A Victim of Trump (and Fundamentals), the Peso Falls

11/14/2016 Forbes.com, Mexico Institute Blog

By Viridiana Rios, Global Fellow, Mexico Institute

pesoI write today as a middle class Mexican whose savings lost 10 percent of their value when American voters elected a leader who pledged to renegotiate NAFTA and tax us to pay for a wall. As a result of the election and other factors, the Mexican peso has overtaken the Argentine peso and the South African Rand to become the emerging markets 2016 worst performer.

The Mexican Peso was a barometer for the presidential campaign. It lost 10 percent of its value when Clinton lost, 1.9 percent in the week after the FBI reignited Clinton’s email controversy, and hit its historical low in the days following the election as speculation turned to the potential impact of Trump’s first months in office. The peso spiked 1.3 percent in less than an hour during the first presidential debate, and when Trump’s lewd conversation about women broke, it gained 2.2 percent.

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North America Must Compete Globally

6/28/2016 Forbes

By Earl Anthony Wayne and Gary Hufbauer

NAFTAContrary to campaign rhetoric, the integration of North America over the past quarter century has successfully grown the continental economy and enabled it to compete in global markets. And, in North America this has been done without the centralized institutions that UK voters just rejected. The June 29 North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa offers an opportunity to launch even smarter collaboration across Canada, Mexico, and the United States that respects the sovereignty of each partner. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and President Enrique Peña Nieto can approve a range of actions to make the North American economy more competitive and productive in the years ahead.

North American trade networks and continental investment ties have generated millions of jobs. North America is the best performing continent among advanced countries. But it still needs to create more and better jobs. Economic growth is too slow and productivity is far below par. An ambitious work agenda coming from the Leaders’ Summit can help boost the three economies.

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Op-Ed | Getting North America Right

5/9/2016 Mexico Institute blog, Forbes.com

By Earl Anthony Wayne, Public Policy Fellow, Wilson Center

nafta (2)When the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States meet on June 29 for a North American Leaders Summit (NALS), they will have two big tasks: 1) to explain clearly why cooperation between the three countries is of great value; and 2) to give clear directions to their officials to do the hard technical work so that cooperation produces solid results for economic growth and competitiveness, for mutual security, for the shared continental environment, and for international cooperation where we can do more together than individually.

Since Mexico hosted the last so-called “Three Amigos” Summit in 2014, the tone in the U.S. domestic political debate has turned very critical of cooperation across the continent, whereas the actual collaboration and mutual understanding between the governments has improved.  The potential to help make all three countries more competitive in the world and to become a model for regional cooperation has increased, even as the electoral campaign attacks on the relationship with the United States’ two top export markets sharpened starkly.

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