Last night, I had the chance to attend an interesting panel discussion featuring Richard Steffens (Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere, U.S. Department of Commerce) and Jacobeth Hernandez (Consul for Economic Affairs at the Consulate General of Mexico in New York).  The topic was the USMCA, which is the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that is designed to replace NAFTA.  Ok, enough with the acronyms.

If you are wondering where things stand with the USMCA and ratification, you can read about it here.  In short, in the United States, Congress is attempting to reach a deal particularly on the provisions that have to do with labor and the environment.  There are some helpful “fact sheets” available on the website of the United States Office of the Trade Representative for how the USMCA will impact manufacturers.

Based on last night’s panel discussion, here are my takeaways from the current draft of the USMCA:

  • One of the main issues that Mr. Steffens discussed is “fixing the borders” for trade.  This has nothing to do with immigration.  Rather, it has to do with simplifying the paperwork that needs be completed in order to export to Canada and Mexico given the various regulatory differences.  All the countries appear to be committed to trying to take on this very real, albeit practical, issue.
  • The USMCA includes several provisions that are intended to protect intellectual property.  Mr. Steffens noted that this was a central issue for small and medium sized businesses.
  • As noted above, labor and environmental compliance issues remain paramount in the USMCA.  With that said, Mr. Steffens noted that the three countries agreed on a significant number of items in the agreement.

We will continue to follow the progress of the USMCA.