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US, Canada And Mexico Herald Successful NAFTA Meeting

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

15 August 2007

Following the conclusion of a meeting of the NAFTA Free Trade Commission on Wednesday, David Emerson, Canada’s Minister of International Trade; Eduardo Sojo, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy; and Susan C. Schwab, United States Trade Representative, released a joint statement, outlining the overall results of the meeting held in Vancouver.

The three Ministers noted that the work accomplished at this meeting would help to lay the foundation for the upcoming North American Leaders Summit in Montebello from August 20-21, 2007.

The statement noted that:

"As the NAFTA concludes the complete elimination of duties within North America, we must look for new and creative ways of further promoting trade and new business opportunities. We must build upon our initial success, and continue to strengthen our regional competitiveness with a view not only of intra-NAFTA trade, but considering other regions as potential destinations for our exports and an important source of imports."

"In keeping with our collective commitment to increasing market efficiencies, economic growth, prosperity and innovation in all three countries for the benefit of our citizens, we engaged in a constructive discussion of what we can do to achieve these goals. Thus, we have agreed to:

  • Develop a work plan to respond to the ever increasing pressures on North American competitiveness. The plan – which will address the key issues that impact our trade and identify the most effective means to facilitate it – will be presented for review at our next meeting so we can develop a strong and competitive North American platform that increases the welfare and the prosperity of all our citizens;
  • Facilitate trade in specific sectors in order to foster stronger more competitive North American value chains. To this end, we have instructed officials to move ahead on the following sectors: swine, steel, consumer electronics, and chemicals. We also tasked our officials to identify a second set of sectors. We look forward to receiving progress reports on the first set of sectors, as well as reviewing work plans for the second set of sectors, at our next FTC meeting; and
  • Conduct an analysis of the free trade agreements that each country has negotiated subsequent to the NAFTA, beginning with those in the western hemisphere. This work will focus on identifying specific, meaningful differences between agreements, especially those related to trade facilitation and transparency."

The three North American trade officials continued:

"We also reaffirmed our commitment to cooperate in other regional and global fora:

  • We are committed to multilateral trade liberalization and to successfully concluding the WTO Doha Round of negotiations. We urge all WTO Members to demonstrate renewed energy and flexibility in the negotiations based on the Chairs’ texts in agriculture and non-agricultural market access, and put the Doha Development Agenda on a path toward a balanced and ambitious overall outcome that results in meaningful improvements in global trading conditions.
  • At the same time, we reaffirm our commitments undertaken at our last meeting of APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade, held in July 2007 in Cairns, Australia. To this end, we reiterated our commitment to examine the prospect of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP)."

"We are also pleased with significant progress on rules of origin. In 2003, the NAFTA Working Group on Rules of Origin set out to liberalize the requirements for obtaining NAFTA duty-free treatment.

  • The first set of changes – affecting approximately US 20 billion in annual trilateral trade – was implemented in 2005.
  • A second set of changes – affecting an estimated US 15 billion in trilateral trade – was implemented in 2006.
  • We have now agreed to a third set of changes – affecting an estimated US 100 billion in trilateral trade. These changes will be implemented in 2008.

These efforts confirm NAFTA’s ability to adapt to ever-changing competitive conditions including new sourcing patterns and production methods. In this context, we asked the Working Group on Rules of Origin to continue its work to pursue further liberalization opportunities."

"We also commend our officials for having completed the technical rectifications to align the NAFTA rules of origin with the Parties’ updated tariff schedules resulting from the World Customs Organization’s amendments to the nomenclature of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System that came into force on January 1, 2007. We are pleased to note that the NAFTA Working Group on Rules of Origin will soon consult with officials from Chile to share experiences with issues of common interest."

"We recognize the concept of cumulation of origin as an important mechanism for creating new business opportunities by strengthening the competitiveness of North American products globally. The Commission intends to instruct the Working Group on Rules of Origin to study further appropriate opportunities for cumulation."

The statement concluded:

"We agreed that regional cooperation has provided significant benefits for economic growth and job-creation in each of our countries. We further agreed to pursue opportunities, wherever practical, to promote further cooperation for the benefit of our producers and consumers. Finally, we agreed that the United States will host the next NAFTA Commission meeting, at the Ministerial level, in 2008."

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