San Diego And Baja California Leaders Celebrate New Trade Deal With Canada
Monday, October 1, 2018
Photo by Jean Guerrero
San Diego and Baja California Leaders Celebrate New Trade Deal With Canada
Jean Guerrero, border reporter, KPBS News
UPDATE: 4:00 p.m., Oct. 1, 2018:
President Trump says the North American Free Trade Agreement was "the worst trade deal ever made," and that he’s helped forge something new: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
But San Diego and Baja business and community leaders in Washington D.C. who are celebrating the revised deal told KPBS that it is actually very similar to NAFTA. It’s just strengthened and updated for the digital age.
The new deal, which still needs approval from the three countries' legislative bodies, increases the percentage of auto parts that must be made in the North American region and includes new protections for the environment and intellectual property.
San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer was among the leaders who traveled to DC with the delegation to lobby for the trilateral deal.
“Free trade is incredibly important to us in San Diego," Faulconer told KPBS, adding that the original NAFTA created tens of thousands of jobs in the region. "That's a strength we use to compete with other regions around the world –– so we want to keep that going."
Trump had threatened to move forward on a bilateral agreement without Canada, saying the country was being too difficult in negotiations. But Canadian Embassy representatives told members of the San Diego delegation that Trump’s rhetoric was misleading and that the speed of the negotiations was unusually fast for a treaty this wide-reaching.
The delegation members in that meeting, including Mexico's Consul General in San Diego Marcela Celorio, told the Canadian Embassy representatives that Mexican business leaders in San Diego really value their relationships with Canada.
Celorio said she thinks the change of NAFTA's name was to "send the message that NAFTA is no longer in place, but I think that for the common people that have been acquainted with NAFTA for so many years, it's going to keep on being NAFTA, even though we can call it U.S.-M-Kah, or maybe 'Camexus' in Spanish."
Duncan Wood, director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, spoke to the delegation on Monday evening, saying that the new deal "reflects the needs of a 21st century economy" by expanding beyond agriculture and manufacturing to services and digital trade.
"President Trump has actually done us a huge favor," Wood said. "He opened up the conversation over NAFTA in a way that a disruptor should. I wouldn't have done it in the same way he did, but let's face it, when he opened up the can of worms ... by putting (the agreement) under threat, he succeeded in rallying supporters."
Dozens of San Diego and Baja California business and community leaders cheered over breakfast Monday morning in Washington, D.C., after learning the U.S. had reached a late-night deal to save the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The new deal, reached just before a midnight deadline imposed by the U.S., will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The delegation, led by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, traveled to Washington to lobby for a new version of the trilateral agreement amid growing concerns the U.S. was going to sign a bilateral agreement with Mexico, excluding Canada. The original trilateral NAFTA has long been touted as a boon to the economies of the San Diego-Tijuana mega-region.
“In the end, it was a good outcome — it would have been disastrous for it to be just the U.S. and Mexico,” said Paola Avila, vice president of international business affairs for the chamber. “I say disastrous because you would’ve been doing away with a trilateral agreement and replacing it with something that’s less.”
The deal still needs Congressional approval. Avila said the goal of the trip will now be to “talk about implementation — what does this agreement mean, how long do businesses have to adhere to new regulations, what will the transition look like and lobbying members of Congress — again, this is not a done deal.”
The deal includes updates to “help the ease of trade,” said Avila, including the elimination of outdated paper transactions, and a new chapter on environmental protections which is expected to help the Tijuana River Valley.
President Trump on Monday morning called it a "great deal," tweeting that it "solves the many deficiencies and mistakes in NAFTA, greatly opens markets to our Farmers and Manufacturers, reduces Trade Barriers to the U.S. and will bring all three Great Nations together in competition with the rest of the world."
Trump also added, "Congratulations to Mexico and Canada!"
Members of the delegation will be meeting with representatives for the Canadian Ministry and other leaders through Wednesday.
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