MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government will have the difficult task of demanding and retaining the symmetry that exists in the current North American Free Trade Agreement despite pressure from the United States’ renegotiation team, an economist who was one of the original NAFTA negotiators said on Wednesday in an interview with EFE.
“Mexico must strive to ensure that what comes out of this negotiation is once again perfectly symmetrical,” Luis de la Calle said.
De la Calle is a former minister of trade issues at the Mexican Embassy in Washington who participated in the design and implementation of this trade accord linking the US, Mexico and Canada that entered into force in 1994.
All three countries have equal rights and obligations under NAFTA, the first symmetrical trade pact involving a developing country (Mexico).
“If the United States now intends for the result to be asymmetrical because they’re losing and want to stop losing, that implies that the result of the negotiation won’t be the same. For Mexico, from my perspective, this should be unacceptable,” said De la Calle, who also is a Mexican former deputy economy secretary.
The first round of negotiations to modernize NAFTA, which US President Donald Trump has termed the worst trade deal in history, will take place from Aug. 16-20 in Washington, with other rounds to follow in Mexico and Canada.
This week, Mexico presented its priorities in the negotiations, including demands that no tariffs be imposed that adversely affect its exports and that efforts to rebalance trade relations be carried out by expanding rather than curtailing trade.
Mexico will be at the table with a US renegotiating team that wants to reduce that country’s trade deficit (which amounted to $64 billion in 2016) with the Latin American country.
“Accepting tariffs or quotas on exports to North America would be contrary to the spirit and letter of NAFTA,” De la Calle said.
The future of the agreement lies in combining synergies to make the three nations an export platform to the rest of the world, an ambitious goal that would imply renegotiating controversial terms, such as those on rules of origin and dispute resolution.
Presumably, such steps would involve expanding NAFTA’s energy chapter and including a labor chapter or new concepts such as the digital economy.
“We need to go further. We need to explore new territory on other things, such as the transportation sector, which has to be world-class to make us an export platform,” the economist said.
But he acknowledged that it remains to be seen how the process will unfold.
“I’m sure the negotiations will be a roller coaster,” De la Calle said.