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.

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Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or…

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.