UC San Diego Conference Looks At NAFTA Impact
Mexico is starting to set boundaries on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Today the highest negotiator in Mexico says talk Samantha -- talks on NAFTA will stop at they want to impose tariffs. Any talk and tariffs and he will walk away from the table. Negotiation will start in June but today NAFTA is the subject of a daylong form at the center for US Mexican studies at UC San Diego. Joining the is the chair of one of the discussion panels Elizabeth Malcolm Mexico City correspondent for the New York times. Welcome to the program Elizabeth. Thank you for having me. We are months away from negotiations and we are already hearing ultimatums. That does not seem to bode well for the NAFTA talks does it. No although in any negotiation there's a kind of positioning that takes place before the real negotiation start. Clearly Mexico having tried for many month to engage in polite and substantive talks appears to be taking a stronger line now with the Trump administration. There has been no give from the Trump administration on NAFTA. Rhetoric coming out of the White House has not changed election campaign. So Mexico is taking a tougher line and there is obviously pressure from inside Mexico to take a tougher line as well. Mexico was sort of the whipping boy of the campaign. It continues to be. Mexican still very insulted by the rhetoric coming out of the White House. There has been some talk from Mexican officials that they would rather leave NAFTA then enter prolonged renegotiations. Why would that be. Basically NAFTA is a set of rules of the game. They cover trade and investment between the three countries of NAFTA. Canada Mexico and the United States. If there is uncertainty about those roles that delays trade and more importantly investment. Mexico has been hurt already by the uncertainty of the peso has fallen dramatically. It has recovered a bit recently. And since has installed the most out of overseeing out or that it was not to build a factory and make it go. That was a 1.6 dollars investment so there is a feeling that if we will have years of this and anti-that paralyzes everything that he better to just move to the rules of the game and that way companies can make the decision. It often takes companies years to plan a vacant best sellers offer up new rules so that they can make the decision. What are some of the things that will change overnight if the US and the left NAFTA? That is hard to tell and I think that is part of the problem is well. Nobody really knows. NAFTA allows free trade between the three countries much unfettered. The question would be with Terrace -- Howard Sheriff's return to proceed tariffs under WTO rules -- WTO/quilted organization roles and then they would take tariffs averaging anywhere in the US a to -- it is better to just walk away and let NAFTA crumble than what -- wait for these uncertainties to play out over the course of years. Here in the US there are many who put to NAFTA as one of the reasons manufacturing has declined. They see it as benefiting Mexico more than the US. Is that criticism valid in your opinion? It is a very complex issue. First of all master -- NAFTA went into effect a while ago so they have been many factors that went into play during that time. The entry of China into the World Trade Organization obviously had enough -- much greater effect than NAFTA ever did. There's no question that manufacturing jobs have lost but how much of that is due to NAFTA and how much of that is due to organization. How much of that is due to China? There are so many variables that it is very difficult to gauge. There is no question that factories have set down in the American heartland. That factories have opened in Mexico. However other jobs have been created in California and Texas and Arizona and even in the Midwest that are related to NAFTA. The agricultural sector has gained massively from NAFTA and they are arguing did not tear up NAFTA just make it better. It is a very complex mix of factors. How does Mexico view NAFTA. Mexico would basically rather have NAFTA do not have NAFTA. There was enormous of people in the first years of NAFTA particularly in the agricultural sector which explains why emigration from Mexico into the US rose sharply -- that immigration is basically now it is net zero. They would rather have it and not have it. There are some regions of Mexico and but wages are still low and those jobs are going to a small number of people in those areas where you see prosperity rising. Mexico has not grown the way everybody expected. It is still very moderate growth. 2% -- 2.5% on average of the years there's an understanding that Mexico needs to do a lot more to grow and cannot depend on math. The panel that you will be moderating today is about political realities among the US-Mexico in Canada. Do this political realities as opposed to economic realities make it unlikely that NAFTA will continue to exist? In a way the political reality is all up to what happens here in the US. Mexico -- were I am based is scheduled to have presidential elections in 2018. Right now the front runner is somebody who has come out of the Mexican left his name is [Indiscernible] he was a former mayor of Mexico City and he has often been very critical of NAFTA. It is really unknown how he will respond. He will take a more nationalist tech certainly I think those political realities are going to be very volatile as we go forward. It will be interesting to see here in the US. If those companies and cities and states that have renovated from NAFTA begin to speak up a bit more loudly about how they would like to see NAFTA continue in some form. There are many things that play Canada would also like NAFTA to continue. With a ally with Mexico will try to cut us a deal with US there are so many unknowns. How soon could all of this negotiating or unraveling start to happen. . This will start in June but it's anybody's guess. Is the -- of the US actually does not have the people in place to start designing a new and different kind of agreement we don't know. I've been speaking with Elizabeth the Mexico City course on it for the New York Times. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Coming up San Diego this is a landmark extort in Hillcrest. What is the end of the Fifth Avenue books me into other bookstores. It is 1226 and you are listening to KPBS midday edition.
Speakers include trade advocates, journalists and politicians from both sides of the border.
The key note speaker for the conference is Mexican Sen. Armando Rios Piter, who has threatened to introduce a bill that would shift Mexico's purchase of corn away from the U.S. It's one of the first signs of saber rattling as the Trump administration looks at reworking the 22-year-old trade agreement.
Out of just over 1,000 people surveyed, 48 percent said NAFTA has been good for the U.S., while 46 percent said the agreement has been bad for the U.S.
President Donald Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, has said renegotiating NAFTA is his top priority. The Senate is also expected to vote on Ross’ nomination Monday.