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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