Mexico, US to discuss NAFTA replacement, border delays
Mexican government and business leaders will meet with their U.S. counterparts for a second straight day on Friday, seeking to push for ratification of a trade deal, do away with border delays that are hurting exporters, and discuss metals tariffs.
MERIDA, Mexico: Mexican government and business leaders will meet with their U.S. counterparts for a second straight day on Friday, seeking to push for ratification of a trade deal, do away with border delays that are hurting exporters, and discuss metals tariffs.
The talks coincide with renewed tensions over trade and the border after two years of uncertainty sparked by President Donald Trump’s push to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez are scheduled to meet on Friday on the sidelines of the so-called U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue in the Mexican city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula.
Their meeting will center on ratification of the deal agreed to replace NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), as well as a dispute over tomato trade and the steel and aluminum tariffs the Trump administration imposed on Mexico nearly a year ago under the “Section 232,” Marquez told Reuters.
Marquez will be able to tout a workers’ rights bill that Mexico’s lower house of Congress overwhelmingly approved late on Thursday, legislation that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called key to winning over Democrats wary of USMCA.
At the top of the agenda will also be the massive delays at the U.S.-Mexico border, which have cost businesses on both sides millions dollars, forced some exporters to turn to expensive air freight to stay on schedule and even affected the auto industry.
The slowdowns began late last month after Trump threatened to close the border if Mexico did not halt a surge of people, mostly Central Americans, seeking asylum in the United States. He did not close the border, but his administration reassigned several hundred border agents to handle the influx of migrants, creating staffing shortages that triggered long delays for cross-border traffic.
“The big announcement of a border closure didn’t happen, but instead we are left in a worse situation … because there is a de facto closure that is causing huge delays,” said Marquez. “This is something that affects us a lot and we don’t have any instruments to stop it.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will send about 100 agents to the Mexican border to speed up crossing times, Democratic U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas said on Thursday, noting she had been informed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez.
Marquez said the issue of fabricated structured steel would also be discussed after the U.S. International Trade Commission said last month that domestic producers were being harmed by imports of the product from Canada, China and Mexico.
In prepared remarks, Ross underscored Mexico’s position as the second-largest export market for the United States and its third-largest trading partner, saying the “integrated economies generated over US$678 billion in two-way trade in goods and services last year.”
“This group’s job is to jointly explore the role the private sector can play in creating the economic conditions needed to improve the lives of the people in Southern Mexico and Central America,” Ross said.
Mexico is eager to drum up investor interest in strategic projects in its southeastern states and allay any fears about how President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been managing the country economy, Latin America’s second largest, since taking office in December.
“I am also looking forward to our discussions about the USMCA, its benefits to Mexico and the United States and its passage,” said Ross.
Lopez Obrador is scheduled to give closing remarks at the event later in the day.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)