Tag: North American Free Trade Agreement

Mexico’s Calderon Comes to Town, as Trucks Still Stalled

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is in town this week for a brief visit. Mexico is building toward its Presidential elections in July 2012, and the U.S.-Mexico relationship is always an issue in the election there as well as here. We don’t expect the lingering inability of the Obama Administration to resolve the NAFTA cross-border trucking dispute to be top of President Calderon’s list, but it will be up for discussion.

To recap, briefly: In the North American Free Trade Agreement, the United States signed on to allow cross-border trucking. As long as they meet U.S. safety and driver standards, Mexican and Canadian trucks under NAFTA should be able to cross the U.S. border, drop cargo and return home with cargo. They can’t engage in domestic deliveries. U.S. trucks are supposed to have the same rights. However, while this is in place between U.S. and Canada, implementation has been blocked for years between the U.S. and Mexico. Mexico won a NAFTA dispute settlement years ago, but declined to impose the retaliatory tariffs allowed by that process.

Until two years ago, that is, when Congress ended a pilot program for cross-border trucking and President Obama signed off on it. As a result of this, Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars worth of U.S. manufactured and agricultural exports. It has been nearly two years since this happened, and the Obama Administration has only very recently (January 2011) issued a “Concept Document” that lays out a foundation for discussions on re-establishing cross-border trucking. Little more has happened since that document was released, however, other than some “technical discussions.”

The Mexican government has indicated it is discussing the issue in good faith and that their U.S. counterparts are working hard. This is good news. However, the tariffs remain in place, harming American manufacturers who cannot ship their products to one of their largest markets without a massive markup that prices them out of the market. Many of these exporters are small & medium manufacturers – more than 90 percent of U.S. exporters to Mexico are SMMs. And waiting in the wings is a rotation of products on the retaliation list. We haven’t seen that list, but last time it was rotated, it put the bulls-eye on some major U.S. agricultural products, including pork and apples. Our bet is the next time it rotates, it’s going to focus squarely on manufactured goods instead. There’s not a lot of time left before we see this happen. We urge Secretary LaHood and his interagency team to buckle down and finish up their discussions. Tens of thousands of American jobs are at stake.

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Cross-Border Trucking Plan Boosts Manufacturing Exports to Mexico

We can’t say the Mexican trucking dispute is over, but we can now say that, at last, the end appears to be in sight. Almost two years after Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars of American manufactured goods exports, the Obama Administration has released a long-awaited “Concept Document” that provides a foundation that, if it can be successfully turned into a mutually acceptable proposal, will lead to compliance with our NAFTA commitments and the removal of Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars of U.S. exports.

While release of the interagency document is an excellent development and very good news, we are not out of the woods just yet. It will take substantial effort on the part of the Obama Administration and Congress to work through the concepts in this proposal and create a final agreement acceptable to all parties. Public comments will be solicited. And, of course, the Mexican government will need to be an integral part of any agreement. A solution will need to ensure that Mexican and American cross-border trucking takes place in a manner similar to the existing cross-border trucking that has existed between the United States and Canada. The good news is that a successful solution will speed commerce and increase productivity and efficiency in supply chains.

But only after a final agreement is reached and we are compliant with our NAFTA commitments will the tariffs be removed. And Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs have had an significant impact on a wide variety of industrial sectors across the entire country. For two years, manufacturers around the United States have faced these retaliatory tariffs on their exports to Mexico. As a result, our competitors from Canada, Latin America, China and elsewhere have had an opportunity to increase their market share in Mexico at our expense. We need to move swiftly toward a solution so the tariffs can be eliminated.

Still, we appreciate the efforts put forth by the Administration in its interagency process to develop and release this concept document. The proposal released today will form the basis on which discussions between the United States and Mexico (with input from Congress and a public comment period) will take place. We strongly encourage all parties involved to buckle up, buckle down and get moving. Every day that passes means unnecessary barriers to American exports remain in place.

Department of Transportation release, “U.S. Cross-Border Trucking Effort Emphasizes Safety and Efficiency

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The Impact of Mexican Tariffs on U.S. Manufacturing, Agriculture

Following up Monday’s announcement that the Mexican government would be “carousel-ing” some of the products targeted for retaliation under the cross-border trucking case, the official revised list was published this morning – and the new tariffs will take effect later this week.

The total value of the exports targeted by these tariffs is more than $2 billion in 2009 – which, you will note, was one of the worst years for American exports in a long time, given the impact of the recession. Based on 2008 figures, the value would be more than $2.5 billion.

In this spreadsheet we have highlighted the new products, the associated dollar value of Mexico’s imports from the U.S. for 2009, and listed the tariff percentage.

The biggest impact comes in new agricultural and processed food products. Manufacturing in America embraces many different sectors of production, and one of the largest and most important is the food processing industry. Here, we have seen the Mexican government impose tariffs of 10-20 percent on products like chocolate, ketchup, chewing gum and cheese — all products of the manufacturing sector, made in American factories by American workers.

At the same time, we see new tariffs imposed on other manufactured goods, including industrial polishes, adhesives, trench diggers, rubber gloves, floor coverings, stainless steel containers, and gas masks.

While the NAM is pleased to see a number of industrial products removed from the revised list – including carpets, telephones, metal furniture, and various paper products – the list of manufactured goods facing tariffs as a result of the Obama Administration’s lack of progress on resolving the cross-border trucking dispute remains long. Mexican school children will be paying more for their education this fall, given that printed exercise books, paints, ballpoint pens and pencils are on the list, facing 15 percent duties. Also still on the list are key home products like refrigerators, coffeemakers and dishwashers; consumer goods like toothpaste, deodorants, aftershave, and suntan lotion (and toilet paper); home furnishing goods including curtain rods and desks, and industrial goods including gas filtering machines.

All in all, it’s a cornucopia of American-made products facing punitive tariffs in Mexico this week. Not just manufacturing but farmers will feel the pain as well – the significant addition of pork, apples, oranges, sweet corn and grapefruits total well over $700 million in U.S. exports. But manufactured goods are hit, and hit hard. And hit just as hard are the American factory workers who make these products – most of which have a significant export market in Mexico, our second largest trading partner.

It’s past time to fix this problem and get our goods moving back over the border that we made duty-free in 1994 with NAFTA.

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U.S. Manufacturing Affected by Mexico’s Retaliatory Tariffs

From Bloomberg, “Mexico Puts Tariffs on Some U.S. Pork Cuts in Truck Program Retaliation“:

Mexico will impose import tariffs on some U.S. pork cuts, ketchup, cheeses, sweetcorn and some fruits because of the U.S. government’s failure to restore a program allowing Mexican trucks to operate north of the border, the nation’s official gazette said.

The list includes a tariff of 5 percent on some cuts of pork and as much as 25 percent on fresh white cheese, according to the notice. Onions, apples, pears, oranges, cherries, soy sauce, mineral water and sunglasses are also on the list.

Mexico’s official gazette lists all the products in Spanish. Media reports focus on the agricultural and retail products because consumers/readers can easily grasp the impact. The economic on manufactured goods could be as great or greater, however. Here’s Google’s translation of part of the list, including the percentage tariffs applied. Most of it reflects the original list of products announced in March 2009.

 We note the addition of heavy machinery, such as trenchers (8429.59.01), hit with a 15 percent tariff.  That’s a big ticket item which other countries such as Canada are more than eager to supply.

 

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In Seattle, a Topic Not Addressed: Cross-Border Trucking

Surprisingly, this week’s hot issue of retaliatory tariffs imposed by Mexico against U.S. farmers and manufacturers appears not to have been mentioned during the President’s trip to Seattle on Tuesday. At least the issue does not appear in any of the public comments.

Washington State agricultural producers have lost millions of dollars worth of sales because of Mexico’s tariffs against U.S. products imposed in retaliation for U.S. refusal to establish the cross-border trucking program required by NAFTA. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), for whom President Obama raised campaign funds on Tuesday, is leading the Congressional call for resolving the dispute.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the former Governor of Washington, was also on hand.

But nothing in any of the public comments we see.

Well, maybe the issue arose in private conversations.

Earlier Shopfloor.org posts.

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Cross-Border Trucking: Mexico Retaliates with Tariffs on Pork

The President is expected to highlight export issues in Seattle today when he speaks with small business owners at 11:40 a.m. and then makes a statement to the press. (White House schedule.)

We’d be very surprised if he does not comment on Mexico’s announcement Monday of retaliatory tariffs being imposed on additional U.S. products because the United States is violating NAFTA provisions requiring regulated cross-border trucking.

The issue is especially timely because the President follows his meeting with business owners by attending a campaign fundraiser with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), one of the most vocal critics of U.S. inaction on the issue. Murray has demanded a solution to the problem by Oct. 1.

The Mexican government has imposed its tariffs with a keen political sense, hitting U.S. farm products in states like Washington, Idaho and California, and many manufactured goods — obviously the major concern of the National Association of Manufacturers. News accounts today highlight the additional tariffs on pork and pork products. From The Des Moines Register, Irritated Mexico increases tariffs on U.S. pork“:

Mexico added pork to a list of 99 U.S. products on which it is raising tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the National Pork Producers Council said Monday.

“Mexico’s retaliation against U.S. pork will have negative economic consequences for America’s pork producers,” said Sam Carney, a producer from Adair who is president of the pork council. “We are extremely disappointed that our top volume export market has taken this action, but we’re more disappointed that the United States is not living up to its trade obligations.”

The actual list of affected products won’t be known until its published in the government’s Official Gazette, but Bloomberg reports: “Fifty-four of the products that will be subject to tariffs will be agricultural and the rest will be manufactured goods, said the Mexican official who can’t be identified.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk expressed disappointment in a statement. The gist: We’re working on it.

(continue reading…)

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Cross-Border Trucking: Manufacturers Face Additional Mexican Tariffs

Mexico’s minister for the economy, Bruno Ferrari, has just announced the Mexican government will be adding to its list of U.S. products subject to retaliatory tariffs resulting from the United States’ failure to address the cross-border trucking dispute. While the exact products and changes aren’t official and won’t be for several days, the basic issue here is unchanged: The United States has violated the terms of a trade agreement, NAFTA, and thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs are at risk because the Administration and Congress won’t take the necessary steps to put us in compliance.

President Obama and President Calderon met back in May and discussed this issue. I am certain at that time that President Calderon told Mr. Obama that, if this issue were not resolved in a timely fashion, additional tariff retaliation would be forthcoming. Now, almost two months later, we see that the retaliation is here. More manufacturing and farm products will be added to the list, which already impacts billions in dollars in U.S. exports. Some products will come also off the list — but the very fact that we are facing retaliation on American manufacturing firms and their exports is unacceptable. This issue can be resolved through careful cooperation between the Administration and Congress, and between the United States and Mexico. Transportation Secretary LaHood told Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) more than two months ago that a solution was “closer than soon.” The only thing “closer than soon” now is additional tariff retaliation on more U.S. manufacturing.

Some of those manufacturers have already shut down U.S. assembly lines and moved their production to Canada, Mexico or other countries – exporting jobs instead of products. Others are still paying the tariffs to maintain their market share in Mexico – money that could be far better spent on creating new jobs, increasing investment in their business, or expanding to other markets. Many of those manufacturers have indicated that, 15 months after the tariffs were first imposed, they will now begin to shut down U.S. production rather than continue to pay the tariffs –- so we can expect the pain to spread from their bottom line to the unemployment line.

It doesn’t have to be like this. There is no reason under the sun why we continue to face the tariff retaliation we’ve faced since 2009 — and certainly no reason for facing additional products being targeted. This new action should spur to Congress and the Administration to turn to negotiations and a solution as soon as the August recess ends. Manufacturing wants to double exports, increase jobs, and lead the economic recovery. Pursuing policies that do the opposite by leaving trade disputes unsettled are the wrong road to travel.

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At the White House, Remarks about Cross-Border Trucking Issue

President Obama and President Calderon of Mexico released a joint statement after their meeting today, and they also held a media availability. The most direct reference we find to the cross-border trucking and tariffs issue came in the availability from President Calderon:

Together, we should increase our exporting capacity in a contest of growing competitiveness among different regions of the world.  We talked about the different obstacles that are there for complying with transportation obligations that have been established at NAFTA, a situation that impacts jobs, companies and consumers in Mexico and in the United States.  And we shall work in order to achieve a quick solution with a constructive, creative solution in the long term in this and many other areas. 

The joint statement also had this diplomatic language:

The Presidents agreed that safe, efficient, secure, and compatible transportation is a prerequisite for mutual economic growth.  They committed to continuing their countries’ cooperation in system planning, operational coordination, and technical cooperation in key modes of transportation.

So that’s it.

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On Mexico Trucking Dispute, How Close is Soon?

Mexican President Calderon arrives in Washington on a state visit this week. We expect he will raise an old and a very costly issue – the refusal of the United States to adhere to its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement and permit cross-border trucking. American manufacturers and farmers are facing retaliatory duties on $2.4 billion worth of products as a result of the termination of a pilot program that allowed Mexican trucks access to the United States, as we agreed to do in 1993 when NAFTA was signed.

The tariffs have been in place for 13 months. The Administration has been promising a fix for almost as long. American manufacturers continue to lose market share, pay higher duties and take a hit on their bottom line. Tens of thousands of jobs are at risk if policy is not changed and thousands have already been lost.

Recent press accounts have been filled with a sense of hope that the Obama Administration is “close” to announcing a proposal to resolve the issue – that we will “soon” see a plan. But we’ve heard this before.

The current hope for a resolution springs from comments at a May 6 Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) urged Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to resolve the trucking dispute with Mexico during the state visit of President Calderon.

The Senator’s questions focused on the agricultural aspects of the trade dispute, and while we certainly sympathize with Washington state farmers, the Mexican tariffs are hurting manufacturers across the country, in all 50 states – about two-thirds of the $2.4 billion in exports subjected to tariff retaliation are manufactured goods.

Here’s the start of her question (from her web site, where you can listen to the Q&A as well):

Mr. Secretary, I want to ask one last question about an issue I brought up with you the last time you were before this subcommittee: cross-border trucking with Mexico and the devastating effect of Mexican tariffs on Washington state farmers.

Back in March, I urged you and the administration to move quickly to craft a plan to resume cross-border trucking with Mexico in a way that would address the safety concerns raised during the pilot and end the tariffs imposed by the Mexican government.

You told this subcommittee that a resolution would be forthcoming “soon.”

According to press accounts, LaHood said the DOT, cabinet members and Obama’s administration had “worked very hard to put a proposal together we will be announcing it very soon.”

He said, in response to the Senator: “We will come to Capitol Hill and brief every senator that has an interest in what it says; get feedback. Our intention is, President Obama’s administration’s intent is to restart this program. It’s part of NAFTA. It needs to be restarted. We believe if it is restarted these tariffs will be lifted.”

The secretary said they are “very close to briefing you and other senators” when Murray interrupted him.

“Very close,” she asked. “Sooner than soon?”

“It is closer than soon,” LaHood responded. (continue reading…)

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A Year Later, Mexico’s Retaliatory Tariffs Harm U.S. Manufacturers

Today we mark the anniversary of the imposition of retaliatory tariffs on a wide range of U.S. manufactured exports to Mexico. As a result of Congress yanking funding for a pilot program to demonstrate the safety of Mexican trucks operating in the United States –- and the program’s interim report showed they’re just as safe as U.S. trucks — $2.4 billion worth of U.S. exports to Mexico, ranging from grapes to dog food to refrigerators, have spent the last year facing high tariffs that have priced them far above similar products sold in Mexico by our competitors around the world.

This may not seem like an enormous issue, in the grand scheme of things, but it is real jobs that have been lost, real communities that in some cases have lost the major employer, and it is small and medium manufacturers (SMMs) who have been hit hard in particular. Over 95 percent of the firms that export to NAFTA are SMMs, and for many of them, loss of Mexico as an export market could be the difference between viability and closing up shop.

The National Association of Manufacturers has studied the impact of these tariffs, and found that about 16,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs have either been lost or are at risk of being lost as a result of their levy. Sixty-five percent of the targeted items are manufactured goods, including chemicals, paper and printed materials, household and personal care products, machinery, and processed food products.

There are three ways you can deal with these tariffs, and we’ve seen manufacturing in America try all three. You can shut down your U.S. production and move it to Mexico, Canada, or another country. That has happened. You can try and stick your Mexican distributors with the cost of the tariff. You can try to do that, but in many cases they’re just finding new suppliers from other countries, and the U.S. market share is dropping. Or, you can eat the tariffs as part of your cost of business. Adding a 20 percent tariff to your costs to try and preserve market share is, at best, a short-term solution that leads to loss of profits. Do it long enough, and you’ll be searching for alternate production lines in countries where they don’t face tariff retaliation. This takes the pain from the bottom line to the unemployment line, and it’s something many U.S. companies – after an entire year of facing such tariffs – are beginning to do. The situation is only going to grow worse in the coming months. (continue reading…)

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