Following the first meeting of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Free Trade Commission (FTC) on May 18, 2021, United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Canadian Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade Mary Ng, and Secretary for Economy Tatiana Clouthier released the following statement:
“Today the United States, Canada, and Mexico held the first-ever USMCA FTC meeting. While this renewed Agreement is less than a year old, our countries are neighbors and friends, and have a longstanding shared history built on mutual respect and cooperation. The USMCA commits us to a robust and inclusive North American economy that serves as a model globally for competitiveness, while prioritizing the interests of workers and underserved communities. The Parties recognize that trade policies should foster broad-based and equitable growth, spur innovation, protect our shared environment, and have a positive impact on people from all walks of life. To accomplish this, the United States, Mexico, and Canada recommit to fully implementing, enforcing, and fulfilling the Agreement’s terms and high standards throughout the life of the USMCA.”
During the FTC, the Ministers reviewed the work already underway to advance our cooperation under the Agreement. Despite the challenges and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, committees established by the Agreement have convened virtually since entry into force on July 1, 2020, including the Committees on Origin and Origin Procedures, Textiles and Apparel Trade Matters, Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Transportation Services, Financial Services, Intellectual Property Rights, State-Owned Enterprises and Designated Monopolies, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) Issues, Competitiveness, and Good Regulatory Practices. The Ministers took note of these committees’ progress and offered recommendations for future work to maintain progress. This work is critical to the Agreement’s continued implementation.
Recognizing the important role that SMEs play in our economies, the Ministers announced that the Committee on SME Issues will convene the first-ever USMCA SME Dialogue on October 13-14, in San Antonio, Texas, where our governments will engage directly with a diverse group of small business stakeholders, including those owned by women, Indigenous peoples, and other underrepresented groups, to help ensure that everyone is included in, and can benefit from, the Agreement.
Furthermore, Ministers directed the Committees to explore new approaches to better engage with underrepresented communities on trade issues so that the Agreement can best advance equity and opportunities for all stakeholders and to ensure that North America remains the most competitive region.
The United States, Mexico, and Canada also held robust forward-looking discussions on the USMCA’s landmark labor and environment obligations. These commitments set the standard for future trade agreements and should serve as examples to advance workers’ rights and the nexus between environmental issues and trade.
The Parties affirm their desire to champion trade policies that support good jobs that are protected by robust and fully enforced labor laws. The USMCA seeks to raise standards for workers in North America, including those related to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The USMCA also provides us the opportunity to lead the fight against forced labor globally. Today, the United States, Mexico, and Canada discussed our 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. The Parties commit to using the processes established by the Agreement and continuing their productive dialogue on these and other labor matters through an upcoming Labor Council meeting.
The Parties acknowledge that trade and environmental policies are mutually supportive and that trade can provide legitimate and innovative opportunities to address environmental concerns such as wildlife trafficking, illegal logging and fishing, and marine litter. Additionally, the Parties commit to increase law enforcement cooperation, in particular in the areas of wildlife trafficking and illegal logging and associated trade. Today, 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. The Parties discussed ways to address environmental issues and exchanged views on the possible exploration of areas to cooperate, including on trade-related climate change measures.
Free Trade Commission Decision No. 2
Today, the Parties also signed the second Free Trade Commission Decision under the USMCA. The decision adopts the Spanish and French versions of the Rules of Procedure and the Code of Conduct applicable to dispute settlement proceedings under the Agreement. It further adopts the Spanish and French versions of the Uniform Regulations. The decision also affirms our mutual understanding of the applicability of the Transitional Provisions under USMCA for binational panels under Chapter 19 of NAFTA and adopts amended Rules of Procedure for Article 10.12 of the Agreement and Rules of Procedure for Extraordinary Challenge Committees and Special Committees under Chapter 10 of the Agreement. These materials are integral to ensuring the Agreement’s operation. The Parties affirm their desire to work within the mechanisms established under the USMCA as we continue to work towards full and complete implementation of the Agreement. The Parties will complete Spanish and French versions of the Rules of Procedure for Binational Panels, Extraordinary Challenge Committees and Special Committees under Chapter 10 of the Agreement.
As our countries continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and continue our shared recovery from an economic downturn that has disproportionally impacted SMEs and underrepresented communities, we recognize that the USMCA has an important role to play in revitalizing our region. As we continue implementing the USMCA and ensuring that this Agreement benefits those that have historically been left behind by trade agreements, the Parties have agreed to continue to hold engagement meetings with underserved communities and to hold a Trade Deputies meeting before the end of this year to assess progress on the areas highlighted today and identify ongoing opportunities for future engagement.