Mexico’s International Trade Agenda for 2017

mexico1International events such as “Brexit,” the United States’ potential withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) or the possibility of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are all extremely relevant for Mexico’s economy – which has the fourth-largest gross domestic product (GDP) in the Americas and the 15th-largest GDP in the world. The Mexican economy rests heavily on its exports, making 2017 a particularly challenging year for Mexico’s international trade agenda during this last year of the current administration. In 2018, Mexico will hold federal elections to designate a new president and Congress.

The Mexican international trade agenda will be most likely occupied by existing negotiations – such as the modernization of the European Union (EU)-Mexico Global Agreement – as well as with current trade issues such as China’s steel overcapacity and the sugar export restrictions imposed on Mexican exports to the U.S., but there are certain likely events that deserve a close examination:

  • likely formalization of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU – widely known as “Brexit” – a formal invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that may have an impact in the current free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the EU and also may require bilateral negotiations with the UK
  • renegotiation of NAFTA or a possible U.S. withdrawal
  • formal U.S. withdrawal from the TPP and/or possible revival of the initiative in a different format – with or without the U.S.
  • surge of trade protectionist measures, not only through the adoption of additional unilateral measures allowed under international trade agreements, either by Mexico or against Mexican exports, such as antidumping and countervailing duties, but also through more aggressive unilateral actions (customs duties increases, safeguards investigations, tax or export restrictions, etc.), all of which may result in additional dispute settlement proceedings under the World Trade Organization (WTO) or bilateral FTAs – such as NAFTA Chapter XIX­– and investment treaties
  • increase activism by Mexico to diversify its export destinations and foreign direct investment sources, particularly with China, Korea and Japan, to expand and increase trade flows. (Mexico already has an FTA with Japan, has explored the possibility of an FTA with Korea and has not formally expressed yet any interest to negotiate with China)
  • increased pressure by China to obtain recognition from Mexico as a market economy, which could have a serious impact on new antidumping investigations and on the 27 existing antidumping duty orders against Chinese products (out of the current 52 products that are subject to antidumping orders in Mexico); China recently filed for consultations with the EU and the U.S. under the WTO to address this matter

On its own, 2017 will be a busy, uncertain year for Mexico’s trade agenda. The uncertainty over Mexico’s relationship with the U.S. will add additional stress to the system. While the debate will continue to rage in the U.S. as to whether NAFTA was a good trade deal for the U.S., NAFTA brought benefits to Mexico that created a more stable neighbor for the U.S.

Article originally published here

Meet Canada’s new International Trade Minister

francois-phillippe-champagneFrançois-Phillippe Champagne, a lawyer who’s worked for a string of major multinationals, Champagne knows the world of global trade—but says Canadians must reap the benefits at home.

Arguably the biggest promotion in today’s federal cabinet shuffle goes to François-Philippe Champagne, who vaults from parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, a supporting role just outside cabinet, to succeeding Chrystia Freeland in the high-profile post of minister of international trade.

I say “arguably” because an obvious case could be made that Freeland is, in fact, the key moving part in the shuffle. In taking over from Stéphane Dion as foreign minister, she notches up noticeably in prestige and profile. But Champagne, previously known only to attentive Ottawa insiders, in a single stride becomes an unignorable front-bench player for anyone watching federal politics.

This doesn’t come entirely as a surprise. Before he jumped into politics, Champagne held down serious jobs in international business. A lawyer, he was senior counsel and vice-president at ABB Group, a Swiss engineering giant, and then had a string of titles, including strategic development director, at AMEC, a big London-based project-management company focused on the energy sector. But he never hid his political ambitions, and returned to Shawinigan, Que., where he grew up (yes, in Jean Chrétien’s hometown) to win the Saint-Maurice-Champlain riding in the 2015 election.

Last month, before rumours of an imminent cabinet shuffle were much in the wind, I interviewed him at his office just off Parliament Hill. An upbeat, diminutive, and youthful 46, he riffed confidently on the challenges facing the Canadian economy.

And now that he’s taking over the trade portfolio, Champagne’s perspective on Canada’s position in the world economy is even more relevant. He sees plenty of room for improvement. For instance, he cited Australia and Britain as countries that do a better job selling themselves to international investors. Canada’s profile abroad is too often, he suggested, a fragmented one.

“I have been in a room in London where provinces were pitching against each other,” he said, recalling his days in the private sector. “I didn’t think, as a Canadian ex-pat, this really was the best way.” Champagne touted Morneau’s plan to create something called the Invest in Canada Hub, announced in last fall’s economic statement, as a step toward a “one-stop shopping” solution to marketing the national brand.

He argued the time is right for Canada to present itself more assertively, checking off the country’s selling points in an unsettled world. “Stability, predictability? Yes, you can see ahead. Rule of law? You know, if you build a plant here, 50 years from now it’s still going to be yours; you’re not going to have a change of regime. And you talk natural resources, low cost of electricity, fairly low cost of doing business, favourable tax rates.”

After Champagne waxed on for a while about Canada’s advantages as an open, trading economy, and a beacon for foreign investment, I asked if that vision remains politically viable in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit. Isn’t it likely that many Canadians, deep down, share the anxieties of English and American voters who responded last year to more protectionist, defensive rhetoric?

Champagne said that’s not what he hears in his own rural and small-town Quebec riding. He claims voters there, from truck drivers to lumber industry workers, tend to grasp that trade is essential to their livelihoods. But it’s crucial, he argued, for governments to make sure most people can see the benefits of liberal economic policy flowing their way.

So he cited measures from last spring’s budget, including the new Canada Child Benefit and the boost to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for lowest-income seniors. “People get it,” he said. “They see that, from the growth that we’re aspiring to achieve for the country, there is a piece of that for them.”

And he contrasted that with the discontent he noticed, back when he was based for five years in London, over how globalized trade and investment seemed to benefit only “a very discrete group” of the highly educated Brits. He added cautiously: “It’s not for me to talk about other countries, but I’m just talking from personal experience. You could see at some stage there was this imbalance.”

For Canada to avoid a Brexit-like backlash, the economy must keep generating wealth and spreading it around. Champagne agrees with economists who say that will be hard to sustain, since our workforce just isn’t expanding like it used to. “A lot of the growth in our country came after World War Two, with the influx of population from Europe, mainly. Then in the 1970s, women came to the workforce,” he said. “Now what we’re facing is that population in Canada is aging more than the world population.”

He said the federal policy response to the demographic crunch of more retired and few working-age Canadians can’t be merely incremental. “In an era of slow growth we need to have big, bold ideas,” he said. “We need to be ambitious.”

Up to now, Champagne has worked in Morneau’s shadow, helping develop policy ideas like the finance minister’s infrastructure bank and investment hub. Freeland showed, when she was finalizing Canada’s trade deal with the European Union, how a trade minister can make a mark—and secure a cabinet promotion. Now, Trudeau is giving Champagne his chance, and Ottawa has a key new player to watch.

Article originally published here

India Looks to Boost Access to Latin America, Eyes $100 bn in Trade

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In a bid to ease hurdles and open up access to new frontiers, the government aims to enhance connectivity with Latin American (LatAm) countries — a move which will ease the long-standing demand of various nations. Trade volume could easily go up to $100 billion.

Sources in the government told FE, “At the recently concluded India-LAC summit organised by the MEA in Mexico, it was felt that South-South cooperation needs to be more vibrant and effective. Poor connectivity emerged as the biggest hindrance for investors — connectivity would go a long way in enhancing business between India and the LatAm and Caribbean region.”

“Trade and investments are below expectations in the region, while the shipment takes almost 60-90 days. And there are no direct flights,” sources added.

The region offers immense opportunities to Indian companies, especially in sectors such as energy, pharmaceuticals and agri business. Trade between India and Latin America is likely to double in the next five years from the current level of $46 billion, with direct shipping, air connectivity and visa-on-arrival, as well as free trade agreements, as some of the steps being taken to boost trade with the region.

While transportation costs and the lack of familiarity with each other’s markets were previously cited as the big impediments, the government is planning to improve connectivity to the region.

 

Experts say that the trade volume could easily go up to $ 100 billion if the leaders of both sides blend proactive diplomacy, address issues like enhancing connectivity and leverage multifarious win-win opportunities, especially in areas like energy, agriculture, nutritional processing, textiles, transport and IT & ITES.

Countries in the region, especially those landlocked like Bolivia, recognise that their connectivity too needs to be improved.

Seeking investments in developing Bolivia’s massive lithium deposits, which account for 60% of the world’s reserves, and keen on selling potassium and urea to India, minister for development planning René Orellana of Bolivia, told FE, “In an effort to improve connectivity, we are planning to improve our own infrastructure in Santa Cruz and creating a big business hub where big planes could land.”

Cuba, as pointed out by its ambassador, Oscar I Martínez Cordovés, has embarked on a rapid programme of modernisation and has in place special economic zones and technology.

Nicaragua is seeking Indian collaboration in the renewable energy space, which offers huge capacities for development of this alternate energy source. It is also looking at the Indian companies for mining too.

Countries like Haiti are anxious to see a balanced sharing of resources between the developed North and the developing and least developed countries of the South.

This is critical to pushing development in the growth-starved South, which is in urgent need of education, transfer of knowledge and technology, and use of great capacities in R&D for the socio-economic upliftment of its people.

Today, 60% of the current bilateral trade is in oil, hydrocarbons, minerals and agriculture commodities, but it is now moving into niche areas like pharmaceutical and IT services.

Article originally published here

Why China is Cosying up to Latin America

china-lac-373x300Just days after Donald Trump’s victory in the US election, President Xi Jinping (習近平) set off for Latin America – his third trip to the region since taking office in early 2013. Beijing has laid out a new road…

BY CARY HUANG

Beijing has laid out a new road map for its relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries in a strategic push to expand its clout on the continent.

China’s growing interest in Latin America is raising many questions in the West, especially in the United States, which has considered the region its backyard since it adopted the Monroe Doctrine in the 1820s. That doctrine states US opposition to any outside intervention in North or South American affairs – and says any such action will be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States”.

This closer engagement with Latin American countries coincides with a US president-elect who has vowed to scrap regional trade deals, build a wall on the Mexico border and deport undocumented immigrants.

But it’s an engagement that has caused business to boom. Trade between China and Latin America and the Caribbean multiplied by 22 times between 2000 and 2013, reaching US$236.5 billion in 2015. In 2014, China overtook the European Union to become the region’s second largest trading partner after the US.

The following year, Beijing signed a slew of agreements with Latin American countries promising to double bilateral trade to US$500 billion and increase the total stock of investment between them from less than US$100 billion to US$250 billion within ten years.

China sees its relationship with these countries as primarily economic rather than political or ideological.

Economically, China aims to diversify the sources of energy and materials for its manufacturing-centred economy. It also aims to find new markets for the country’s industrial overcapacity.

But its rising economic influence will inevitably come at Washington’s expense. In 2000, China’s share of Latin American trade was 2 per cent, compared to the US’ share of 53 per cent. By 2010, China’s share had grown to 11 per cent, while the US’ had dropped to 39 per cent.

China is also using its economic clout to win diplomatic allies and challenge US supremacy and its dominance in the region. Beijing is intent on making friends in the US’ historical sphere of influence to match America’s allies in East and Southeast Asia. The diplomatic offensive is part of a larger plan to make China a world-class power under Xi’s “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation. Xi also wants to turn China into a maritime force, capable of projecting power, both soft and military.

Beijing might also be trying to target Taiwan. Of the self-ruled island’s 22 allies, 12 are in South America, and cross-strait relations have become decidedly chilled since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May.

Nevertheless, the debate in Washington will focus on whether China’s growing clout will undermine American diplomacy in the region, as it runs counter to the Monroe Doctrine. Anyone suspicious of China’s ambitions might point to America’s own history. A little more than a century ago, the US’ construction of the Panama Canal heralded the advent of a new era of American dominance. Now China looks to be doing the same with its work on a 270km Nicaraguan canal that will one day rival the Panama route.

Historically (post-Mao) China’s leadership has eschewed interventionist diplomacy. But the leadership is shifting that policy and it is possible Latin America will become the stage for a showdown between the world’s greatest superpower and a fast-rising one. ■

Article originally published here