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Preliminary U.S.-Mexico trade deal leaves trail of uncertainty

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s declaration of victory Monday in reaching a preliminary deal with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement raised at least as many questions as it answered.

Can Canada, the third member country in NAFTA and America’s No. 2 trading partner, be coaxed or coerced into a new pact?

If not, is it even legal — or politically feasible — for Trump to reach a replacement trade deal with Mexico alone?

And will the changes being negotiated to the 24-year-old NAFTA threaten the operations of American and foreign companies that have built sophisticated supply chains that span the three countries?

“There are still a lot of questions left to be answered,” said Peter MacKay, a former Canadian minister of justice, defense and foreign affairs who is now a partner at the law firm Baker McKenzie.

Trump was quick to proclaim the agreement a triumph, pointing to Monday’s surge in the stock market, which was fueled in part by the apparent breakthrough with Mexico.

“We just signed a trade agreement with Mexico, and it’s a terrific agreement for everybody,” the president declared. “It’s an agreement that a lot of people said couldn’t be done.”

Trump suggested that he might leave Canada out of a new agreement. He said he wanted to call the revamped trade pact “the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement” because, in his view, NAFTA has earned a reputation for being harmful to American workers.

But first, he said, he would give Canada a chance to get back in — “if they’d like to negotiate fairly.” To intensify the pressure on Ottawa to agree to his terms, the president threatened to impose new taxes on Canadian auto imports.

Talking to reporters, the top White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, urged Canada to “come to the table.”

“Let’s make a great deal like we just made with Mexico,” Kudlow said. “If not, the USA may have to take action.”

Canada’s NAFTA negotiator, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, is cutting short a trip to Europe to fly to Washington on Tuesday to try to restart talks.

“We will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class,” said Adam Austen, a spokesman for Freeland, saying that “Canada’s signature is required.”

MacKay added, “There is still a great deal of uncertainty — trepidation, nervousness, a feeling that we are on the outside looking in.”

Critics denounced the prospect of cutting Canada out a North American trade pact, in part because of the risks it could pose for companies involved in international trade. Many manufacturers have built vital supply systems that depend on freely crossing all three NAFTA borders.

Noting the “massive amount of movement of goods between the three countries and the integration of operations,” Jay Timmons, president of that National Association of Manufacturers, said “it is imperative that a trilateral agreement be inked.”

Trump has frequently condemned the 24-year-old NAFTA trade pact as a job-killing “disaster” for American workers. NAFTA reduced most trade barriers between the three countries. The president and other critics say the pact encouraged U.S. manufacturers to move south of the border to exploit low-wage Mexican labor.

The preliminary deal with Mexico might bring more manufacturing to the United States. Yet it is far from final. Even after being formally signed, it would have be ratified by lawmakers in each country.

The U.S. Congress wouldn’t vote on it until next year — after November midterm elections that could end Republican control of the House of Representatives. But initially, it looks like at least a tentative public-relations victory for Trump, the week after his former campaign manager was convicted on financial crimes and his former personal attorney implicated him in hush money payments to two women who say they had affairs with Trump.

Before the administration began negotiating a new NAFTA a year ago, it had notified Congress that it was beginning talks with Canada and Mexico. So Monday’s announcement raises the question: Is the administration authorized to reach a deal with only one of those countries?

A senior administration official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said yes: The administration can tell Congress it had reached a deal with Mexico — and that Canada is welcome to join.

But other analysts said the answer wasn’t clear: “It’s a question that has never been tested,” said Lori Wallach, director of the left-leaning Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Even a key Trump ally, Rep. Kevin Brady, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, expressed caution about Monday’s apparent breakthrough. Brady said he looked forward “to carefully analyzing the details and consulting in the weeks ahead to determine whether the new proposal meets the trade priorities set out by Congress.”

And the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, while hailing Monday’s news as a “positive step,” said Canada needs to be party to a final deal.

“A trilateral agreement is the best path forward,” Cornyn said, adding that millions of jobs were at stake.

There are political reasons to keep Canada inside the regional bloc:

“Mexico will have a difficult time selling ‘Trump’s deal’ back home if Canada does not think it is a good deal,” said Daniel Ujczo, a trade attorney with Dickinson Wright PLLC. “It will appear that Mexico caved.”

Indeed, Mexico has said it wants Canada included in any new deal to replace NAFTA.

“”We are very interested in this being an agreement of three countries,” said President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Observador. At the same time, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told reporters that “Mexico will have a free trade agreement regardless of the outcome” of U.S.-Canada negotiations.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said Mexico had agreed to ensure that 75 percent of automotive content be produced within the trade bloc (up from a current 62.5 percent) to receive duty-free benefits and that 40 percent to 45 percent be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. Those changes are meant to encourage more auto production in the United States.

For months, the talks were held up by the Trump administration’s insistence on a “sunset clause”: A renegotiated NAFTA would end after five years unless all three countries agreed to continue it. Mexico and Canada considered that proposal a deal-killer.

On Monday, the Trump administration and Mexico announced a compromise on that divisive issue: An overhauled NAFTA would remain in force for 16 years. After six years, the countries would review the agreement and decide whether it needed to be updated or changed. They then would either agree to a new 16-year deal or the pact would expire.

CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE

President Donald Trump hangs up after talking with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on the phone in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday in Washington. (Associated Press: EVAN VUCCI)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nation

David Isaac named TMC Transportation’s Trainer of the Month for September

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DES MOINES, Iowa — David Isaac has been named TMC Transportation’s Trainer of the Month for September.

Isaac started at TMC on Valentine’s Day in 2014. He spent eight years in the military and transitioned into his job at TMC while he was still enlisted.

“TMC was the only flatbed company that stood out to me, especially the company being employee-owned,” he said.

After driving on his own for a year and a half, Isaac decided to give driver training a try.

“The instruction aspect of the job was interesting to me,” he said. “There are multiple ways to do one job, but I wanted to make sure that the end result is what is required of our company standards.”

When it comes to his training style, Isaac takes a supervising role.

“I try to let my trainees do as much as they can on their own, but I keep a close eye on them so I can correct them as needed,” he says. “I feel like this is the best way for them to get a feel of what it will be like once they have their own truck.”

Isaac’s favorite part of training is meeting other drivers and helping to be a part of their success. “It’s great to see new guys do well,” he said, adding that it is great for the company and himself as a driver.

“You can learn even while you’re teaching, whether it be a load you wouldn’t normally or discovering a more efficient way to do things,” he said.

Overall, Isaac is grateful for the opportunities he’s had while driving for TMC.

“From the discipline it takes to do the job to the relationships I have built with my peers, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” he said.

Each month a TMC Transportation trainer who demonstrates the outstanding qualities TMC looks for in a trainer is honored. The Trainer of the Month recipient is chosen based on their safety record and the safety performance of their trainees, the number of drivers trained and the retention percentage of those drivers.

For more information, visit www.tmctrans.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Nation

SBTC’s anti-ELD petition stalls, Lamb uses ‘phone call’ to put blame on OOIDA

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Small Business in Transportation Coalition President James Lamb tells viewers his investigators have uncovered evidence that the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is sabotaging his organization’s efforts to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to ask the White House to immediately suspend the ELD mandate. (Courtesy: SMALL BUSINESS IN TRANSPORTATION COALITION)

In an online editorial we posted August 22, we described the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) as positioning itself to be a one-organization wrecking crew targeting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the electronic logging device mandate.

In particular, SBTC and its president, James Lamb, have been on a tear against electronic logging devices.

(This is the same James Lamb who in early 2018 agreed to settle a probe into his business dealings brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which accused Lamb and several of his businesses of cheating owner-operators out of millions of dollars over the course of several years. Lamb denied the charges, but the FTC is in the process of paying out $900,000 to truckers who the FTC says were scammed.) 

After the FMCSA denied its application asking that carriers with under 50 employees be exempted from the ELD mandate, SBTC asked FMCSA to reconsider the denial. 

With no apparent hope that FMCSA would reverse its decision (remember ELDs were ordered by Congress), Lamb and SBTC have moved up the ladder to Congress and now to the White House.

AN EDITORIAL

Currently, SBTC is asking drivers to sign a petition asking Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and President Donald Trump to immediately suspend the ELD rule.

SBTC says it needs to have 100,000 signatures (it’s not likely to happen) before the White House will respond to the request to suspend the rule (that’s not going to happen).

On October 31, Lamb published an e-mail asking the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to join SBTC in support of the petition.

Lamb apparently never heard from OOIDA, and with his petition drive stalled at around 30,000, Lamb decided to blame OOIDA for the slowdown and appears to have set out to make his point with an elaborate scheme that he is reporting through his e-mail blasts to the media and others, claiming that OOIDA is sabotaging his petition effort.

In a video released at 5:20 p.m. Central time November 11, Lamb said he had some “disturbing” information regarding the ELD suspension petition.

“We have through our private investigators uncovered that OOIDA has been sabotaging our petition. We hired a private investigator to follow up on leads that we have received regarding possible interferences with our petition and boy, did we find out what’s going on here.

“I’m going to play you the tape the investigators sent me (actually the tape of the phone call made only hours or maybe even minutes before) so you can listen to it yourself and boy is it bad news for Todd Spencer (OOIDA president and CEO) and this woman … at OOIDA.”

That “call” was obviously definitely recorded November 11 because the caller mentioned having to work on the holiday, which was Veterans Day. The man said his name was Mike (he also used the name Michael).

It was easy to tell the call was a set up because the man who identified himself as Mike was obviously and purposely speaking into a recording device and recording the other end of the call from a speaker phone.

(An average observer would likely have thought the call was legitimate and that Lamb’s investigators had worked hard to uncover it, but we rather suspect it was a set up and the tape was handed to him shortly after it was made. Or he might even have been in the room when the “call” was made.

A transcript of the tape shows Mike told the woman at OOIDA he wasn’t a member of OOIDA but had heard about the petition campaign and wanted to know if OOIDA was in support of the petition.

He even claimed he’d never heard of James Lamb.

The woman at OOIDA offered to send Mike information about Lamb.

She asked for his e-mail address and after a long hesitation he gave two: mikeferrili@yahoo.com and mikeferilli@yahoo.com.

E-mails sent to those addresses by The Trucker bounced back as undeliverable. (Surprise, surprise).

Based on the transcript, Mike kept trying to coerce the woman into telling him not to sign the petition (the “call” lasted almost 15 minutes), but not once did she do that, only suggesting that petitions were not effective in getting change in Washington.

Contacting members of Congress is the most effective way, she said, citing an instance when OOIDA and its members contacted a Congressman, contacts that led to him reversing his support of speed limiters.

The woman told Mike that some members of OOIDA had signed the petition.

Mike kept on and on, obviously and in the opinion of this writer hoping the woman would tell him not to sign the petition, but the woman said absolutely nothing to discourage drivers from signing the petition.

At one point, the woman reminded Mike that OOIDA had been fighting against ELDs and their predecessors since 1978.

After the tape of the telephone “call” ended on his video, Lamb reiterated that OOIDA had done everything in its power to keep truckers from signing the petition.

“Mr. Spencer it looks like we have a problem. Our legal team (the same one that handed Lamb the tape of the supposed phone call) is going to be reviewing this and you are going to have some explaining to do to a judge,” he said.

We too, have a problem, and it’s with Mr. Lamb trying to lay the blame for his failure directly on someone else.

We call on Mr. Lamb and his organization to get off his anti-ELD horse.

That horse is in the barn, sir, and it’s not coming out.

If you are as powerful as you say you are, turn that power into doing something about the real issues that plague trucking today, matters such as driver pay, the lack of safe parking and driver detention, just to name a few.

OOIDA and many others in the trucking industry are really concerned about those issues.

So should you be.

 

 

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The Nation

Please grab hold. Please grab hold.

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As things turn colder around America, here is yet another video of a truckers ice encounter.
You know in their mind they were repeating… “please grab hold”!
Location: Somewhere along Lake Shore Drive in Decatur, IL.

Courtesy: WANDTV

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