#1 – NAFTA ROUND 6 IN MONTREAL: THE DETAILS
When: Negotiations are scheduled to go on, at varying levels, from Sunday the 21st to Monday the 29th.
Who: Issue-level negotiators began meeting on Sunday and those discussions will stretch all week. Minister-level discussions among U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, and Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo are slotted to take place on the 29th.
Where: Negotiations will take place at the Hotel Bonaventure in Montreal.
What: POLITICO’s trade team has a full run down of the day-by-day meetings HERE.
#2 - NEGOTIATIONS WILL NOT BE IMPACTED BY SHUTDOWN
POLITICO’s Megan Cassella reports that according to USTR a shutdown will “not affect the size or makeup of the USTR delegation headed to Montreal.” While negotiations will go on USTR also confirmed that an Obama era contingency plan for a shutdown will be followed that would furlough everyone but 75 employees deemed essential.
#3 - HOUSE MEMBERS TO DESCEND ON MONTREAL
A sizeable Congressional delegation is scheduled to attend the NAFTA negotiations over the course of the weekend of the 27th-28th. According to Inside U.S. Trade, the traveling Congressional delegation will be led by Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman and Ranking Member, Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ). The delegation is also expected to include Democrats Sandy Levin (MI), Suzan DelBene (WA), Ron Kind (WI), Brian Higgins (NY) and Terri Sewell (AL), as well as Republicans Mike Bishop (MI), Adrian Smith (NE) and Tom Rice (SC).
But... It remains to be seen how government shutdown negotiations and the possibility of a Senate deal going back to the House will impact this trip. It’s also worth noting that Congressional delegations at trade negotiating rounds often find there is not a ton to do on the ground. While members will certainly receive briefings from USTR and meet with industry and NGO representatives, there is little influence they can have on the closed off negotiations between countries.
#4 – MORE TRUMP WITHDRAWAL CHATTER
In addition to the tweet above, the President also told Reuters in an exclusive interview:
“We’re renegotiating NAFTA now. We’ll see what happens. I may terminate NAFTA. A lot of people are going to be unhappy if I terminate NAFTA. A lot of people don’t realize how good it would be to terminate NAFTA because the way you’re going to make the best deal is to terminate NAFTA. But people would like to see me not do that.”
What we hear: Canada and Mexico have long become immune to Trump’s threats. The threats have also done nothing to spur the negotiations on tough issues. It’s increasingly believed that the Trump administration would be open to just about anything to call renegotiations complete and save face. Given that there may not be an outcome in the actual NAFTA negotiations that Trump can sell to his base, we hear the Administration is increasingly looking into creative solutions that may not involve a negotiation outcome.
#5 - MEXICO MEETS TRUMP THREAT WITH ONE OF THEIR OWN
President Trump’s theory that the “best deal” would be born out of negotiations occurring in the 6 months after he notified Mexico and Canada that he was pulling out of NAFTA recently ran up against a similarly tough threat from Mexico. Reuters last week reported that three Mexican sources said that should Trump pull out of NAFTA, Mexico will immediately leave the negotiating table. Here’s a quote from the head of international trade in Mexico’s ag ministry:
“I think it’s indisputable that if Trump announces a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, well at that moment the negotiations stop.”
Read more HERE.
#6 - MISCELLANEOUS TARIFF BILL PASSES HOUSE
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill by a vote of 402-0, which cuts tariffs on almost 1,700 different imports that American manufacturers say are not produced in any meaningful way domestically. Each of the tariffs is sponsored by individual companies who say that without the tariff cuts they will be put at a competitive disadvantage internationally.
Bottom line: Particularly now that each of these tariff cuts is vetted by the International Trade Commission this is as non-controversial as trade legislation gets. Look for the bill, which has already been referred to the Senate Finance Committee to steadily and quickly move forward.
Read more HERE
#7 – CANADA REPORTEDLY LAST BIG HURDLE TO TPP SIGNING IN MARCH
Japan’s Nikkei Asia Review reports that this week TPP negotiators will meet in Tokyo to push toward the goal of signing the 11 nation pact in March. However, the story notes that “Canadian demands to revisit cultural exceptions and automotive production rules are still major hurdles to signing the revised deal” in that timeframe.
Read more HERE