US push for freer NAFTA e-commerce faces wrath
A US proposal for Mexico and Canada to vastly raise the value of online purchases that can be imported duty-free from stores like Amazon.com and eBay is emerging as a flashpoint in an upcoming renegotiation of the NAFTA trade deal. Vulnerable industries like footwear, textiles and bricks and mortar retail in Mexico and Canada are pushing back hard against the proposal by the US trade representative to raise Mexican and Canadian duty-free import limits for e-commerce to the US level of $800, from current thresholds of $50 and C$20, respectively. For the Mexicans, the main worry is that such a move could open a back door for cheap imports from Asia and beyond. For Canadian retailers, the fear is that e-commerce companies will undercut their prices.
The US plan was unveiled in July as part of the Trump administration’s goals to renegotiate the 25-year-old treaty. While Mexico and Canada are still formulating their responses, Mexico City is leaning strongly against the proposal in its current form, and Ottawa may not be far behind. The proposed $800 level “opens a completely unnecessary door” to imports from outside the NAFTA trading bloc, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Thursday on the sidelines of a NAFTA-related event, calling it “a very sensitive topic.” The growing controversy over how to account for a burgeoning regional ecommerce sector dominated by the United States highlights a rare area where the Trump administration is pushing to liberalize trade rules rather than tightening them. — Reuters