June 8, 2021
At the end of last month, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with her counterparts from Mexico and Canada, holding the first Free Trade Commission meeting under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The USMCA required this meeting occur within one year after the USMCA entered into full force, and the commitment to this deadline even in the midst of a new Administration and a global pandemic demonstrates the desire to fully implement and enforce the provisions of the agreement, as well as the ongoing partnership between the three nations.
In particular, during the meeting, all three parties committed to prioritizing and working together on labor and environmental issues during the agreement.
On the environment: “…we affirm our shared goal of full implementation of the USMCA environment commitments and continued engagement to address the most pressing environmental challenges, recognizing that a healthy environment is an integral element of sustainable development.”
On labor: Acknowledged the parties’ “…shared obligation to ensure the Agreement’s prohibition of the importation of goods produced by forced labor and recommitted to working closely to promote a fair, rules-based international trading system where products made with forced labor do not enter the trading system.”
Beyond those issues, all three nations noted the disparate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the importance of the USMCA in lifting up these businesses. In her opening remarks, Ambassador Tai noted: “[t]he renewed USMCA recognizes the important role these groups and small businesses play in our regional dynamism.” That recognition is also resulting in the first USCMA SME Dialogue later this year.
Ambassador Tai also acknowledged the supply chain challenges felt as a result of the pandemic, but had a positive outlook on what the USMCA means for regional cooperation, protections for workers and the ability to manage different economic conditions across the three nations.
Despite the challenges of the last year, this meeting shows that the USMCA is a long-lasting, sustainable agreement where all three parties are committed to the goals and objectives of the agreement.