US trade chief Tai urges Canada and Mexico to push through a new North American trade deal

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, United States, on May 12, 2021. Susan Walsh / Pool via REUTERS

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -US Sales Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday called on her Mexican and Canadian counterparts to work together to “implement, enforce and meet the terms of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement” in order to provide political support for the new trade agreement to be maintained.

Tai, in his remarks on the first ministerial-level meeting to review the implementation of the USMCA, said that the three countries must take action to be successful.

“For this agreement to be permanent, it must meet the needs of everyday people – not just in the US, but also in Mexico and Canada. This will only happen if we keep our promises,” said Tai.

Tai met virtually with Mexico’s Secretary of Commerce, Tatiana Clouthier, and Canadian Secretary of Commerce, Mary Ng, as part of the USMCA Free Trade Commission, the governing body of the agreement that regulates approximately $ 1.5 trillion in annual North American trade.

The July 2020 USMCA replaced the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, adding new chapters on environmental, labor, and digital trade standards, as well as significantly stricter regional regulations on automotive content.

Tai has made enforcement of the USMCA and other trade agreements a first core element of the Biden administration’s evolving trade strategy. She helped negotiate stricter labor law enforcement provisions in the USMCA in 2019 as the top Democratic trade attorney for the US House Ways and Means Committee – provisions that helped garner widespread support from both parties.

She said the USMCA was “just one step” towards a worker-centered trade policy in lieu of traditional goals of liberalizing trade and maximizing efficiency through distant global supply chains.

Canada’s Ng said in a comment that the “new NAFTA” is a strong signal of the three countries’ commitments to protect workers, support small businesses and create a more sustainable future.

“We as ministers have an important role to play in ensuring that the agreement reaches its full potential and benefits our communities directly,” she said.

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The opening speech left out a number of complaints the three ministers had made in bilateral meetings on Monday.

They ranged from US objections to Canada’s milk quotas to Canada’s concerns about US “Buy American” restrictions on public contracts and infrastructure projects. Both Tai and Ng complained to Mexico’s Clouthier about his country’s investment climate in the energy and mining sectors.

Tai and Clouthier also discussed Mexico’s pledges to uphold workers’ rights as part of its labor reform commitments, a week after Tai Mexico discovered a possible labor rights violation in connection with a vote on a union contract at a General Motors trucking plant (NYSE: ) in the central Mexican city of Silao.

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