What Does the New USMCA Look Like for Mexico?

USMCA

August 2017, trade negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada met for the first time in Mexico City to begin hashing out a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

Two and a half years and many negotiations later, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has finally passed both chambers of the United States' Congress. The agreement — which overhauls North America's trade relations — is now poised to become U.S. law and the region's governing economic framework, as Mexico's Congress has already passed the deal and Canada's Parliament is expected to follow suit in late January.

While the political negotiations are wrapping up, the next and final step will be the agreement's implementation across North America.

In the coming months and years, these new rules will shape the region's trade realities. Some rules may unleash investment, trade and better labor conditions, but they likely won't be without additional hurdles. In Mexico, the agreement will touch most parts of the country's $1.15 trillion economy, but it will be felt most immediately and strongly in the overall investment climate, the automotive manufacturing sector and in labor conditions.

USMCA Provides Predictability

While less tangible, the agreement's biggest shift will take place at the macroeconomic level, as the USMCA solidifies trade rules and provides greater certainty for North American businesses operating across the continent. Ever since the USMCA's negotiations began, the economic climate has been wracked by uncertainty, especially when specific issues threatened to derail the agreement or every time that the U.S. administration threatened to pull out of NAFTA without any viable alternative.

With the USMCA in place, Mexico has a stronger investment framework and more transparency, clarity and protections for businesses operating in the country.

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Trump signs revised trade deal with Mexico, Canada but shuts Democrats out of celebration

USMCA signing

WASHINGTON – Still facing a divisive impeachment trial in the Senate, President Donald Trump celebrated a rare bipartisan achievement Wednesday when he signed into law a revamped trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Surrounded by business leaders wearing hard hats, Trump portrayed the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, as "a colossal victory" for American farmers, manufacturers and other workers.

"For the first time in American history, we have replaced a disastrous trade deal that rewarded outsourcing with a truly fair and reciprocal trade deal that will keep jobs, wealth and growth right here in America," Trump said during a signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn.

Trump gave a shout-out to more than two dozen Republican lawmakers whom he credited with helping push the deal through Congress.

Left off of his list of plaudits and missing from the celebration: Congressional Democrats, who put their own stamp on the agreement and whose support was pivotal to helping it secure congressional approval. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office said no Democrats were invited to the ceremony.

The revised trade deal, one of Trump's top legislative priorities, is the product of months of negotiations and replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which essentially eliminated tariffs on most goods traded among the three countries.

The agreement guarantees U.S. farmers greater access to Canada's agriculture market and puts new e-commerce rules in place. It also dictates that a higher percentage of autos be made from parts manufactured in North America and requires that at least 40% of vehicle production be done by workers earning at least $16 per hour.

In addition, the pact, which is supported by labor unions and business groups, includes stronger provisions on labor, enforcement and pharmaceuticals that Democrats had sought as a condition for their approval of the agreement.

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Texas No. 1 in foreign trade during third quarter

foreign trade

Texas continues to be a leader in international trade, ranking No. 1 in exports of manufactured and non-manufactured commodities for the third quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Year-to-date, Texas has exported an estimated $155.8 billion in manufactured goods and $68.7 billion in non-manufactured commodities, ranking it No. 1 in both categories among U.S. states.

The four top states for exports of manufactured goods year-to-date after Texas are California at an estimated $93.7 billion; Michigan, $39 billion; Illinois, $38.8 billion; and Ohio, $35.5 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Exports by Metropolitan Area Report released on Dec. 19.

Mexico was the top destination for exports from Texas at $109.7 billion in 2018, representing 35% of the state's total goods exported, according to the census bureau report as well as data from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Canada was second at $27.5 billion.

Texas has accounted for 16.5% of U.S. exports of manufactured and 34.9% of non-manufactured goods so far this year, according to the bureau's report.

The top manufactured commodities exported by Texas include crude oil and petroleum, propane, liquified natural gas and parts/accessories for automatic data processing machines. The top non-manufactured goods produced in Texas include cattle (beef), cotton, chickens, greenhouse and nursery products and dairy products.

The top imports for Texas during the third quarter were crude oil, computers, car engines, cars and car parts and cell phones.

Houston was the top U.S. metro area in terms of exports in the third quarter at $31.3 billion, according to the study. Houston's economy is closely tied to the energy industry, particularly oil and liquefied natural gas.

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Mexico first to ratify USMCA trade deal, Trump presses U.S. Congress to do same

USMCA Trade Deal

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico on Wednesday became the first country to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) agreed late last year to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump.

By a vote of 114 in favor to 4 against, Mexico's Senate backed the deal tortuously negotiated between 2017 and 2018 after Trump repeatedly threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if he could not get a better trade agreement for the United States.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had already anticipated ratification this week in the Senate, where his leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its allies have a comfortable majority in the 128-member chamber.

There has been little parliamentary opposition in Mexico to trying to safeguard market access to United States, by far Mexico's top export destination, and the trade deal was approved with overwhelming cross-party support in the Senate.

Mexico sends around 80% of its exports to the United States, and Trump last month vowed to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods if Lopez Obrador does not reduce the flow of U.S.-bound illegal immigration from Central America.

Lopez Obrador says he wants to avoid conflict with Trump, but noted at the weekend that the tariff dispute showed Mexico needed to become more economically self-sufficient.

Trump congratulated Lopez Obrador on Twitter for Mexico's approval. "Time for Congress to do the same here!" he wrote.

Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, posted a video on Twitter in which he called the Senate's approval "very good news" and said it augured well for Mexico's relations with the United States.

Canada, which has also fought with Trump over trade, is pressing ahead to ratify the deal. The main question mark hanging over its ratification is in the United States, where Democratic lawmakers have threatened to block the process.

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Trade War Update: Port Of Los Angeles No Longer Top ‘Port’ — It’s Laredo

Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles is no longer the nation's leading port, further evidence that the U.S.-China trade war is scrambling the deck chairs of U.S. trade.

Laredo, a city of 260,000 hard on the U.S.-Mexico border, is.

In the month of March, the latest U.S. Census Bureau data available, Port Laredo's trade was $20.09 billion while trade through the Los Angeles port's was $19.66 billion. Laredo's trade was up 9.52% from February while the Port of Los Angeles' trade was down 10.01%.

Although it is just one month of trade, and although the Port of Los Angeles remains the nation's top-ranked port year-to-date among the more than 450 airports, seaports and border crossings, it is just one more sign that President Trump's efforts to force change in China's policies is having an impact.

In previous columns, I have written how China went from buying 57% of all U.S. soybeans to dropping 94.75% in one month. I have written about how China went from being the second-leading buyer of U.S. oil to buying none. I have written about how U.S. trade with China fell fasterearlier this year than at any time in at least 17 years. I have written that China now accounts for a lower percentage of U.S. imports than at any time since 2012. And I have written that Mexico is now the United States' leading trade partner, having replace China.

And now this.

At work, in part, is how important Mexico trade is to Laredo and how important China trade is to Los Angeles. Laredo, in particular.

No other port has handled more trade with one country than Laredo does with Mexico, more than $228 billion in 2018. That''s because last year and this year, Mexico has accounted for more than 97% of all Port Laredo trade.

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Mexico says it is close to U.S. metals tariff deal, waiting for Canada

Mexico Tariffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexico is close to resolving its dispute with the United States over steel and aluminum tariffs without quotas but hopes Canada can reach a similar agreement before completing it, a senior Mexican official said on Wednesday.

Jesus Seade, Mexican deputy foreign minister for North America, told Reuters by telephone that a deal to remove the so-called Section 232 tariffs was "very close" but he wanted Canada to be in the same position in its negotiations with Washington.

"What we've been talking about for a week," he said, "is eliminating the 232 without any quotas," noting that it was "very possible" Canada could sign up to a "similar" deal.

Sudden movements in future trade could be handled via a "consultation and monitoring system," he added, noting Mexico still had the option of sealing a deal without Canada.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also expressed optimism about a resolution to the steel dispute, but a top Canadian official avoided direct comment on that possibility.

"I think we are close to an understanding with Mexico and Canada," on resolving the tariffs, Mnuchin said at a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. He did not provide any details about the potential agreement.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she discussed the tariffs on Canadian metals with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday, but declined to say whether the two countries were close to a deal.

"We made the case as we have been doing for some time that the best outcome for both Canadians and Americans would be to lift those tariffs and to have free trade between our two countries who have this fantastic trading relationship in place," she told reporters after the meeting in Washington.

A USTR spokeswoman declined comment on the meeting.

Asked about prospects for a deal, Freeland said she would not discuss Canada's negotiating strategy. She added that if Washington kept the tariffs in place, it would be "very, very problematic" for Canadian ratification of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal (USMCA).

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Tomatoes from Mexico could soon get a lot more expensive in U.S.

tomatoes from Mexico

Fresh tomatoes may soon be in short supply, and those still available are going to cost significantly more, as the Trump administration is readying a new tariff on the produce imported from Mexico.

The administration on Tuesday said it had terminated an agreement that had continued a non-protectionist policy in play since 1996, paving the way towards a 17.5 percent tariff, or tax, on tomatoes from Mexico.

"The Department of Commerce remains committed to ensuring that American domestic industries are protected from unfair trading practices," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. "We remain optimistic that there will be a negotiated solution."

The ruling could be a victory for U.S. growers, mostly in Florida, who contend Mexican producers unfairly undercut them on prices and have far lower labor costs.

In the wake of the Commerce Department's announcement, Mexico's economy ministry said American consumers can expect to pay 38 percent to 70 percent more for tomatoes. Mexico supplies about half the tomatoes consumed in the U.S., which receives about $2 billion worth of tomatoes from its southern neighbor.

Experts at Arizona State University calculate U.S. consumers might end up having to pay 40 percent to 85 percent more for fresh tomatoes. Costs might increase 40 percent from May to December, then skyrocket further in the colder months, when there are fewer domestic supplies available, according to economists led by Timothy Richards, the Morrison chair of agribusiness at ASU.

"U.S. consumers pay for the lion's share of the tariff impact because the demand for tomatoes in the U.S. is relatively inelastic, meaning that consumers do not change how much they purchase in response to higher prices," Richards said in a statement.

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