Three's Company, Too? Canada Returning to NAFTA Dance As U.S. and Mexico Approach Auto Deal

Canada says it could rejoin the NAFTA discussion, just as the United States and Mexico approach an agreement on automobiles. The two nations engaged in bilateral negotiations a little less than a month ago, seemingly making positive headway on a trade deal.

With President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador assuming office in December, it’s in the United States’ best interest to close a deal as soon as possible. It’s assumed the man, frequently referred to as “AMLO,” will make sweeping changes to the Mexican government. However, he also promises to join forces with several smaller parties from both the right and left to create a coalition aimed at rooting out corruption. The resulting level of uncertainty has many fearing difficult Mexican policy changes and trade negotiations in the future, effectively forcing a restart of NAFTA talks.

According to David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., the duo are close to finalizing a deal on automotive manufacturing. If so, the Northern nation is prepared to rejoin negotiations.

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Looks Like NAFTA Renegotiations Aren't Happening This Year

Governance is one hell of a slippery fish. While you want your elected officials to assist in helping the nation evolve with an ever-changing society, you don’t want a deluge of contradictory and ill-planned laws mucking things up. That’s why the best progress is carefully measured and negotiated. But something has to happen eventually or you begin wondering what we (and the various lobbies) are paying these dingbats the big bucks for.

For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement looks like it’s about to be abandoned until sometime after 2019. After negotiations missed numerous self-imposed deadlines, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Congress needed a notice of intent to sign by roughly May 17th if anything was to be finalized for 2018. That date came and went. Now, everyone appears to have thrown their hands up, with practically every country on the planet currently considering retaliatory tariffs against the United States.

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Trade War Watch: Trump Launches National Security Investigation On Auto Imports

President Donald Trump issued a tweet promising car manufacturers good tidings on Wednesday. “There will be big news coming soon for our great American Autoworkers,” he said. “After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!”

Later that same day, the administration announced it had launched a national security investigation into car and truck imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. The Commerce Department explained that the probe would investigate whether imported vehicles and parts threaten the domestic industry’s wellbeing, taking into account its ability to develop new technologies and the impact of tariffs.

“There is evidence suggesting that, for decades, imports from abroad have eroded our domestic auto industry,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

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Bet You Forgot Today Was the NAFTA Deadline

If you forgot today was the deadline for finalizing North American Free Trade negotiations, don’t worry, so did practically everyone else. In fact, the whole affair is starting to feel like that old car that’s been sitting in your friend’s yard for far too long. He keeps telling you he’s going to fix it up and make it better than new. “This is the summer,” he says. But you know he’s just going to keep mowing around it while it continues to rust and collect mice, so you’ve tried to push it out of your mind.

Like the restoration, the entire concept of a deadline for the trade deal is rather arbitrary at this point. NAFTA’s initial target date for an agreement between the three countries was March 31st, roughly one year after negotiations began. The May 17th deadline was claimed by U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who said Congress had to be notified under the Trade Promotion Authority statute.

“We need to receive the notice of intent to sign soon in order to pass it this year,” explained Ryan’s office. “This is not a statutory deadline, but a timeline and calendar deadline.”

Basically, Congress wants to influence the president and NAFTA negotiators to conclude talks swiftly and reach an agreement before midterm elections. But Mexican officials warned everyone not to get their hopes up. “The possibility of having the entire negotiation done by Thursday isn’t easy, we don’t think it will happen by Thursday,” said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo earlier this week.

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Here's How Trade Negotiations Are Looking for the Month of May; Steel Tariffs Stalled Through June

May kicked off with a bundle of trade deals going into hibernation mode. After some legitimate — albeit quaint — progress, NAFTA decided to take a break this week. Currently, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is in China to circumvent that brewing trade war and is unable to commit himself to the North American Free Trade Agreement’s renegotiation.

That’s probably fine, because Mexico’s auto reps need time to cool off.

The United States’ most recent proposal for increasing NAFTA’s regional automotive content includes a four-year evolvement to meet a 75-percent regional value threshold. It also suggests new labor rules requiring “substantial work” to be set at wages of $16 an hour or more. The move is intended to help the U.S. and Canada bolster production and force Mexico to raise its own wages.

A significant portion of Mexican trade officials aren’t keen on either aspect, resulting in a mixed response overall.

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Team Trump Eases Demands on NAFTA's Regional Auto Content

The United States is softening the contentious automotive content requirement mandates pushed by the Trump administration as part of NAFTA renegotiation talks. While the demand is only one of many asks coming from the U.S., both Canada and Mexico said forcing 85 percent of a vehicle’s overall content to be sourced from the three countries (in order to side-step tariffs) was a nonstarter. Over the past year, the issue became a major sticking point in the trade talks — hindering progress and possibly dooming them to failure.

While Trump’s intent was to bolster domestic employment by incentivizing North American parts suppliers, automakers expressed concerns and noted it was often difficult to reach the current threshold of 62.5 percent.

The United States has now proposed applying the new content requirement only to major components (like a vehicle’s powertrain) while leaving fasteners (nuts, bolts, etc.) alone. As an automobile is made up of tens of thousands of individual parts, deciding what should and should not be counted will make a big difference. Still, some manufacturers are likely to have difficulty meeting the proposed content requirement on critical engine components.

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What's Standing Between You and a Future Citron or Peugeot? Possibly, a Tariff

The threat of new import tariffs has PSA Group worried about its plan to return to the United States. Following President Trump’s proposal to levy a 25-percent tax on steel imports and a 10-percent tariff on inbound aluminum, Europe balked at the suggestion, leading to further threats of a car tariff.

Right now, the U.S. levies a 2.5-percent tax on imported European vehicles, far less than Europe’s 10-percent tariff on vehicle travelling eastward across the Atlantic. There’s a 25-percent U.S. tariff on European vans and trucks, too, which explains why crates of Mercedes-Benz van components sail into the port of Charleston, South Carolina at regular intervals.

According to Trump, any European retaliation against the proposed metal tariffs — which seem all the more likely given yesterday’s resignation of the president’s pro-free trade economic advisor, Gary Cohn — would see the U.S. ratchet up its car tariff. If the scenario comes to pass, your dreams of one day buying a new French car in America could easily be dashed.

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Steel, Aluminum Tariffs Might Not Happen, Trump Says

As the U.S., Mexico, and Canada enter into the final day of the seventh round of NAFTA renegotiation talks, President Trump is offering his neighbors an incentive for signing a favorable deal.

“Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

The president’s surprise announcement of tariffs on imported aluminum and steel late last week — 10 percent on the lighter metal, 25 percent on the heavier one — sent automaker stocks tumbling. Hoping to quell fears of new vehicle price increases, General Motors and Toyota released statements claiming the bulk of their aluminum and steel flies a red, white, and blue flag.

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Slow-Moving NAFTA Talks Could Be Further Hampered by Mexico's Next President

With NAFTA negotiations finally progressing a bit, now would be the perfect time for something to bring up another potential hurdle and ruffle everyone’s feathers. This time, the prospective cataclysm stems from Mexico, and has manifested itself as one man — presidential frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known colloquially as “AMLO.”

Business interests and NAFTA advocates are fearful the leftist candidate could chuck a wrench into the trade policy by adopting a hardline stance opposing the White House’s plan to redefine the agreement to favor the United States. Lopez Obrador is a long-time proponent of social programs that help vulnerable members of society. However, many criticize him for being a populist with socialist ideals that do not serve the financial well-being of the country at large.

While this is debatable, winning Mexico’s July 1st election could see him push back hard against U.S. trade proposals, stalling progress.

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NAFTA Talks Finally Progressing Slightly Better Than a Dumpster Fire

After what could be called some of the least productive negotiations in North American history, some progress is finally being made on the North American Free Trade Agreement. We know, with all of the negative rhetoric being slung from all sides, it sounds impossible. However, all three trading partners are beginning to bend on some of the issues that have proven the trickiest to navigate.

Among them is the faintest glimmer of hope that the automotive content requirements pushed by the United States might be adopted by the other nations, albeit in a modified form.

Still, progress is progress, and it only took about six months to get to a point where some meaningful headway could finally be made. Absolutely incredible. Let’s give these officials a huge round of applause for really getting in there, taking care of business, and not wasting a bunch of time.

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Union Boss Reassures Everyone That NAFTA Is Toast

With everyone weighing in on the ultimate fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement, it almost seems as if we’re cataloging their bets to see just how right or wrong they’ll be in the negotiatory aftermath. Considering there has been such a limited amount of progress on the trade talks, there honestly isn’t much else to do.

Suggesting that NAFTA is “is going to blow up in 2018,” Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian union Unifor, has planted his flag on the side of a total breakdown of the agreement. Unifor represents 23,500 Detroit Three auto workers living north of the border, plus some 16,000 working in the supply chain.

As a union leader, Dias is prone to hyperbolic statements. However, his insight into the situation runs a little deeper than most.

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NAFTA Update: Nobody Has Any Idea What's Going On

In case you haven’t kept up with the coverage on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, things haven’t gone well. Despite wrapping the latest round of talks in Washington on Friday, negotiators have made no clear progress on updating the trade deal. Considering a new deal is supposed to be finalized by the end of March, it’s beginning to look as if the NAFTA revamp might be doomed.

The biggest issue crippling the talks continues to be regional-content requirements for cars to qualify for NAFTA benefits. Both Mexico and Canada have described the U.S. content proposals as “unworkable.”

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Pence Meets With Automakers Annoyed by NAFTA Changes

The automotive industry is wary of any changes that might be made in regard to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Fortunately for them, little progress has been made during the last few months of negotiations. But that doesn’t create an assurance that changes aren’t still en route. So, manufacturers and suppliers have banded together via various trade groups to voice their opinion on how to best handle NAFTA.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has attempted to make itself appear friendly to the automotive business. Continuing these efforts, Vice President Mike Pence has met with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Fiat Chrysler’s Sergio Marchionne, Ford North America President Joe Hinrichs, and a handful of other top-tier auto executives.

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House Members Aren't Digging Trump Administration's Auto Trade Proposals

A bipartisan group of over 70 members of the U.S. House of Representatives has asked the Trump administration to reconsider its North American Free Trade Agreement proposal on auto parts rules of origin. Seen as a sunset clause by Canada and Mexico that tweaks international agreements to lower the United States’ trade deficit, the rule has also received some serious blowback from domestic automakers. They’ve even used trade groups to craft awareness campaigns and reach out to congress, a decision that appears to be working.

Currently, NAFTA mandates at least 62.5 percent of the materials used in a car or light truck be sourced from North America in order to avoid tariffs. The Trump administration’s proposal would up that requirement to 85 percent, with 50 percent of the total being from the United States.

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Toyota's Truck Production Plans Largely Dependent on NAFTA Existing

Despite President Trump giving Toyota significant praise for its continued investment in the United States last week, the success of the automaker’s production plans hinge on the continuation of NAFTA — something the Commander in Chief has been vehemently opposed to since his well-before his inauguration.

Toyota and Mazda’s $1.6 billion factory is anticipated to yield 150,000 Corollas annually and free-up assembly facilities in Mexico that would build the Tacoma pickup. However, if the North American Free Trade Agreement is dissolved, anything produced south-of-the-boarder could be subjected to the chicken tax. Were that to happen, Toyota would be placed into quite a predicament and faced with high import taxes on any trucks it had hoped to ship to the U.S.

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  • ToolGuy If I had some space I would offer $800 and let the vehicle sit at my place as is. Then when anyone ever asked me, "Have you ever considered owning a VW?" I would say "Yes."
  • ToolGuy In the example in the linked article an automated parking spot costs roughly 3% of the purchase price of the property. If I were buying such a property, I would likely purchase two parking spots to go with it, and I'm being completely serious.(Speaking of ownership vs. subscription, the $150 monthly maintenance fee would torque me off a lot more than the initial acquisition cost.)
  • ToolGuy "which will be returned as refunds to citizens of the state" - kind of like the Alaska Permanent Fund? Make the amount high enough and I will gladly move to California to take advantage (my family came close to moving there when I was a teen, and oodles of people have moved from CA to my state, so I'm happy to return the favor).Note to California: You probably do not want me as a citizen.
  • ToolGuy Nice torque figure.
  • ToolGuy Pretty cool.