Trade Opportunities in North America

Last month, the Arizona-Mexico Commission welcomed foreign relations experts to its 60th Anniversary Summit to discuss trade and opportunities in North America.

International Trade Administration director of policy Joseph Laroski, Consul General of Canada in L.A. Zaib Shaikh, and the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute director Duncan Wood joined the summit for the Markets of Opportunity panel discussion.

Melissa Sanderson, AMC board member and vice president of international affairs for Freeport-McMoRan, moderated the panel.

Sanderson and the panelists discussed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the opportunities in North American trade.

Mexico — which refers to the agreement as T-MEC — ratified the agreement last month, the only country in the agreement to do so at this point.

“Our country’s very much in favor of all three countries doing what they have to do in the timeline they see fit for their constituents, for their governments and their administrations,” Shaikh said. 

Canada — which refers to the agreement as CUSMA — is awaiting parliamentary action on the deal. In order for the U.S. to pass the USMCA, it must be ratified by Congress.

In the U.S., the Republican Congress members are expected to support ratification, but Democratic support is not as secure.

“There are Democrats from districts where a lot of business depends upon the certainty that’s given by North American trade… And so, there will be pressure on those Democrats to go for ratification,” Wood explained.

The panelists also discussed the importance of not letting migrant controversies at the border impact the productivity of trade. 

“There’s no reason to hold up our trade relationship due to the immigration issues that we have before us,” Laroski said.

Last month, President Donald Trump announced new tariffs would be placed on imported goods from Mexico to Arizona unless Mexico stopped or slowed the stream of migrant caravans to the U.S. border.

The tariffs were suspended indefinitely after Mexico agreed to put more resources into addressing the issue. But experts fear the cross-border migration issues will impact trade.

“For the next year as we move up to the 2020 election, I’m afraid that trade is going to be a very political issue — migration, security are connected with trade,” Wood said.

“The threat of tax works so that when the time comes where it makes sense to use them again, from his point of view, they’re going to come back,” Wood said.

The Markets of Opportunity panel was held Friday, June 28, at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.

Sierra Ciaramella

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