US, Mexico, Canada agree on free trade pact to replace NAFTA

Canadian and US negotiators reached a deal late on September 30, 2018 on reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018

US, Mexico, Canada agree on free trade pact to replace NAFTA

  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) updates and replaces the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • After more than a year of talks, and six weeks of intense discussions, the governments were able to overcome their differences with both sides conceding some ground

WASHINGTON: Negotiators from Canada and the United States went down to the wire but were able to reach an agreement on a new free trade pact that will include Mexico, the governments announced late Sunday night.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) updates and replaces the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Donald Trump had labeled a disaster and promised to cancel.
The rewrite “will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in our region,” according to a joint statement from US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
After more than a year of talks, and six weeks of intense discussions, the governments were able to overcome their differences with both sides conceding some ground, but both hailing the agreement as a good deal for their citizens in the region of 500 million residents that conducts about $1 trillion in trade a year.
Canada will open its dairy market further to US producers, and Washington left unchanged the dispute settlement provisions which Ottawa demanded.
This will allow them to sign the agreement before Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto leaves office December 1, the date that was the cause of the last minute flurry of activity.
Under US law, the White House is required to submit the text of the trade deal to Congress 60 days before signing — and officials barely made it by midnight.
The United States and Mexico had already reached an agreement on a new NAFTA in late August, and since then negotiators from Ottawa had been in Washington for continuous talks, but as of late last week officials warned time was running out.
Trump complained about the behavior of Canadian officials, and said he rejected a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, although Trudeau’s office said no meeting was planned.
A senior US administration official said the final rewrite is a “fantastic agreement” and he called it “a big win for the United States, Mexico and Canada.”
In addition to the changes to the dairy market in Canada, officials said it includes stronger protections for workers, tough environmental rules, and updates the trade relationship to cover the digital economy and provides “groundbreaking” intellectual property protections, the official told reporters.
In addition, it adds provisions to prevent “manipulation” of the trade rules, including covering currency values, and controls over outside countries trying to take advantage of the duty-free market, he said.
While the new deal — which includes revised provisions on the critical auto sector — should protect Mexico and Canada from Trump’s threatened 25 percent tariffs on cars, still pending are the duties on steel and aluminum, which officials said was on a “separate track,” handled by the Commerce Department.


Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

Updated 25 January 2020

Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

  • Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor asked if there was any risk to dollar deposits
  • The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s central bank said on Saturday there would be no “haircut” on deposits at banks due to the country’s financial crisis, responding to concerns voiced by a UAE businessman about risks to foreign investments there.

Emirati Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, founder of the Al-Habtoor Group that has two hotels in Beirut, posted a video of himself on his official Twitter account asking Lebanon’s central bank governor if there was any risk to dollar deposits of foreign investors and whether there could be any such haircut.

“The declared policy of the Central Bank of Lebanon is not to bankrupt any bank thus preserving the depositors. Also the law in Lebanon doesn’t allow haircut,” the Banque Du Liban (BDL) said in a Twitter post addressed to Al-Habtoor, from Governor Riad Salameh.

“BDL is providing the liquidity needed by banks in both Lebanese pound and dollars, but under one condition that the dollars lent by BDL won’t be transferred abroad.”

“All funds received by Lebanese banks from abroad after November 17th are free to be transferred out,” it added on its official Twitter account.

The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks and raised concerns over its ability to repay one of the world’s highest levels of public debt.

Seeking to prevent capital flight as hard currency inflows slowed and anti-government protests erupted, banks have been imposing informal controls on access to cash and transfers abroad since last October.

A new government was formed this week, and its main task is to tackle the dire financial crisis that has seen the Lebanese pound weaken against the dollar.

Al-Habtoor had asked Salameh for clarity for Arab investors concerned about the crisis and those thinking of transferring funds to Lebanon to try to “help the brotherly Lebanese.”