Ross seeks to mod­ernise agree­ment with Mex­ico and Canada

New Straits Times - - Business -


UNITED States Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross said parts of an Asia-Pa­cific trade deal re­jected by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion could form the ba­sis of a re­vamped North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

“There are some con­ces­sions that the Nafta part­ners made in con­nec­tion with the pro­posed Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP),” he said in an in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day at the Bloomberg Break­away Sum­mit here, re­fer­ring to the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

“There is no rea­son to throw those away. We would view those as the start­ing point.”

Just days af­ter tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew from the TPP, a 12-na­tion trade deal his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama sup­ported but that hadn’t been ap­proved by Congress. Other na­tions in the pact, which also in­cluded Amer­ica’s Nafta part­ners Canada and Mex­ico, have ex­pressed in­ter­est in try­ing to sal­vage the TPP with­out the US.

Trump’s crit­i­cism of TPP has been sim­i­lar to Nafta, which he blames for hurt­ing US work­ers and hol­low­ing out the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor. He has threat­ened to with­draw from the ac­cord if the US can’t ne­go­ti­ate a new ver­sion that re­duces its trade deficit, par­tic­u­larly with Mex­ico.

Ross’s com­ments in­di­cate the US may look for Mex­ico and Canada to repli­cate con­ces­sions they made in the TPP ne­go­ti­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, Canada of­fered to com­pen­sate dairy farm­ers in TPP mem­ber coun­tries, while Mex­ico agreed to labour re­forms, such as changes to pro­tect col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

Ross said Nafta is “at best an ob­so­lete agree­ment”.

He sug­gested the US would try to toughen so-called rules of ori­gin that gov­ern how much lo­cal con­tent needs to be in­cluded in prod­ucts such as cars. The ad­min­is­tra­tion also wants to mod­ernise the agree­ment to cover dig­i­tal ser­vices and im­prove the ac­cord’s dis­pute-res­o­lu­tion pro­vi­sions, he said.


Wil­bur Ross

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