In the News

Lawrence Journal-World
Peter Hancock

Kansas officials expressed cautious optimism Monday about a proposed new trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, saying it appears to offer Kansas farmers and manufacturers greater access to international markets, although details of the agreement still need further study.

Meanwhile, a University of Kansas law professor who specializes in international trade law called it a significant improvement over the original NAFTA, although not as significant as the broader Trans-Pacific Partnership, which included 11 additional countries, but which President Donald Trump withdrew from early in his administration.

“It’s actually very desirable, no question,” Raj Bhala, a distinguished law professor at KU who also practices trade law at the Dentons law firm in Kansas City, Mo., said in an interview.

The new agreement, which still needs approval from Congress, is intended to replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which President Donald Trump had threatened to withdraw from if the other two countries didn’t renegotiate its terms. Although many are calling it “NAFTA 2.0,” it is officially known as the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, or USCMA.

Bhala said the proposed new deal made a number of significant changes and updates to the original NAFTA, including stronger protections for workers’ rights to organize, stricter environmental requirements and more protections for women and LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination in the three countries.

According to information from the White House, the proposed new trade pact also contains a number of new provisions important to Kansas, including:

• An agreement by all three nations not to use export subsidies for agricultural products exported to one another’s markets.

• An agreement by Canada to grade U.S. wheat imports in a manner no less favorable than it accords Canadian wheat and not to require a country of origin statement on its quality grade or inspection certificate.

• Expanded access to Canadian markets for American dairy producers.

• A requirement that 40-45 percent of automobiles produced within the three nations be made by workers earning the U.S. equivalent of at least $16 an hour.

• And another requirement that at least 75 percent of the content of all automobiles produced within the three nations be produced in North America.

Mexico signed on to the agreement with the U.S. last month, But Canada had withheld its support, which had prompted fear among some in Kansas that the new agreement would leave Canada out. Canada, however, agreed to sign on to the deal late Sunday night, just before the Trump administration’s midnight deadline.

Speaking on the floor of the Senate Monday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, said he was relieved that the administration finally reached a deal with Canada.

“As I conveyed to the president when a bilateral U.S.-Mexico agreement was announced, a final agreement without Canada would be a significant step backward from the agreement in place today,” Moran said.

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