TPP MAY FORM BASIS FOR REVAMPED NAFTA
Ross seeks to modernise agreement with Mexico and Canada
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.