USMCA Kicks in Under a Cloud of Disagreements

A modernized North American trade pact officially took effect last week, providing some continuity for manufacturers and agriculture. Reuters says the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement is facing multiple disputes that still need to be resolved, exposing cracks in what was supposed to be a stronger North American “fortress of competitiveness.” The deal takes effect with all three countries mired in a COVID-inspired recession. April trade flow of goods between the countries is normally about $1.2 trillion every year, but the disease cut trade to its lowest monthly level in ten years. The Trump Administration is currently threatening to implement new tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada. Issues currently nagging at the USMCA also include hundreds of legal challenges to Mexico’s new labor laws that ensure workers can freely organize and grant unions full collective bargaining rights. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer calls the agreement the most “far-reaching” trade agreement in history. However, he also says he won’t hesitate to file dispute cases “early and often” to enforce USMCA provisions. He says Mexico’s failure to approve U.S. biotech products is an example.