Canadian Manufacturing

CME reveals broad priorities and specific recommendations for NAFTA talks

The industry association says the proposed TPP and CETA can be held up as examples to modernize NAFTA, but also that solutions which address the unique relationship between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are necessary


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TORONTO—Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters has released its wish-list for the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations between the Canadian, Mexican and U.S. governments.

Canada’s largest industry association, which represents the interests of manufacturers across the country, has identified four main priorities it believes need to be followed in the talks to come.

1. Do No Harm to the Business Environment

CME points to the deeply integrated nature of North America’s manufacturing sector and the way in which each NAFTA member leverages this integration to flourish; something it deems worth preserving.

2. Eliminate Barriers to Trade within NAFTA

The industry association says removing remaining trade barriers between NAFTA members will improve operational efficiencies, decrease the cost of doing business and enhance global competitiveness for all involved. CME says a crucial part of this process is strengthening internal trade facilitation rules, such as customs processes and regulatory alignment between member countries.

3. Modernize and Expand the Agreement

CME argues that an agreement which covers more sectors and products, eliminates investment barriers and leverages opportunities created by technological advances will stimulate growth and prosperity for all of the agreement’s signatories.

4. Leverage NAFTA for Common Approaches to Trade with Outside Countries

CME says a coordinated approach is required to deal with mutual threats from unfair trade practices from outside the NAFTA region.

The association says that to accomplish these goals, elements of CETA and the proposed TPP agreement can be used as a framework for modernizing NAFTA but at the same time stresses the unique nature of Canada’s relationships with the U.S. and Mexico, asserting that it is also necessary to explore mechanisms that go beyond advances made in other trade agreements.

Beyond CME’s broad-brush priorities, it has laid out a number of specific recommendations which it believes will improve the agreement:

  1. Ensure NAFTA negotiation results in maintaining at least the same degree of access into and from the Mexican and U.S. markets that Canadian manufacturers currently enjoy.
  2. Update, modernize and coordinate customs procedures to reflect current business realities; and better leverage technology to reduce administrative burdens, increase security and speed border crossing times.
  3. Strengthen regulatory cooperation to allow products to be designed, tested and produced once and sold across the region without additional regulatory approvals.
  4. Expand and update the range of business professionals, including skilled workers, permitted to move freely within NAFTA without administrative reporting requirements.
  5. Establish a joint strategic trade infrastructure committee with appropriate committed funding to coordinate investments in internal and external trade infrastructure.
  6. Enhance Chapter 19 dispute resolution processes by eliminating Article 1902 and replacing it with a common North American approach to defining what constitutes an actionable trade offence.
  7. Expand NAFTA’s Trade in Services chapter by using the framework TPP agreement to broaden and deepen Canada’s commitments to eliminate existing and potentially future exclusions.
  8. Using the TPP agreement’s Digital Trade chapter as a model, create a new chapter within NAFTA to support growth in the digital economy and manufacturing.
  9. Except in cases that fall under existing national security exemptions, completely eliminate all national and sub-national government procurement restrictions under NAFTA to allow for the free flow of goods, services and technologies.
  10. Work with the U.S. and Mexico to develop a common North American approach to addressing unfair trading practices from outside the region—an approach that specifically addresses industry concerns about currency manipulation, illegal substitution and dumping.
  11. Work with the U.S. and Mexico to develop a common North American approach to eliminating non-tariff barriers in non-NAFTA countries. In addition, develop a unified approach to raising regulatory, environmental and labour standards outside NAFTA to North American standards.

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