Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief trade negotiator, shared his assessment of the NAFTA renegotiations with House of Commons trade committee MPs on December 4, stating that contingency plans are underway if the U.S. administration pulls the plug. Should NAFTA talks collapse, he expects major pushback from American businesses, not the least of which would be agricultural interests.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for example, has named several Great Lakes states which would suffer the most from a potential loss of NAFTA. They include Michigan, the automotive engine of the country, Wisconsin, with $700 million of cheese exports to Mexico and North Dakota, a major wheat exporter.
The Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC), based in Ottawa, has received a number of inquiries from members worried if NAFTA dissolves.
“We want to alleviate any concerns and assure members that the outcome of the NAFTA negotiations will have no impact on the operation of the Dispute Resolution Corporation,” says Fred Webber, DRC president.
An organization like DRC was discussed by both the governments and industries of the U.S., Canada and Mexico as far back as the 1990s. The goal was to create a set of common rights and responsibilities that would both facilitate trade and respect the differences in each country. Article 707 of NAFTA gave rise to the 2020 Committee on Private Commercial Disputes in Agriculture. It was through this provision that the DRC was created in 2000.
“While NAFTA may have given birth to DRC,” says Webber, “we have moved well beyond it with 1,700 members all over the world.”
“Make no mistake, changes to NAFTA resulting in trade barriers of any kind may have an impact on our educational services and the kinds of disputes we see, but our primary role and our member’s rights and responsibilities will remain unchanged.”
While chief technical negotiators will be in Washington December 11-15 to work on NAFTA, the official round six is not anticipated until the end of January in Montreal.