A leader of Mexico's largest plastics trade association said that despite widespread concern, the plastics sector in Mexico is "not at risk," and he urged executives to ignore “predictions of a catastrophe” about the industry's future.
Meanwhile, as the Trump administration appears poised to move ahead with renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, the leading chemical industry associations in the region issued an unusual joint statement March 1 defending NAFTA as a positive — but saying they were open to its “modernization.”
The nuanced statement from the largest chemical industry associations in Canada, Mexico and the United States came two days after the Trump aide seen as one of the leaders of any NAFTA renegotiation — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — won Senate confirmation.
In his confirmation hearing in January, Ross said NAFTA would be an early focus of the Trump administration, and Trump has repeatedly said that NAFTA hurt the United States and benefited its trading partners, calling the deal a “catastrophe” that led to massive job losses.
In their March 1 statement, the American Chemistry Council in the U.S., the Chemical Industry Association of Canada and the Mexican Chemical Industry National Association all said NAFTA has had big economic benefits for the industry, leading to job growth and making the region more competitive globally.
“NAFTA's success lies in the economic partnerships and supply chain synergies and efficiencies that have been created through reduced barriers to trade,” they said. “Over the past two decades, [NAFTA] has provided enormous benefit for the chemical sectors in Canada, Mexico and the United States.”
But the groups said they were also open to modernizing NAFTA, outlining priorities such as digital age updates for stronger cross border data protection, new standards for state-owned companies and closing inefficiencies in areas like rules of origin.
The three industry groups, however, made clear that they prefer that no changes be made to the duty-free trade regime that's existed under NAFTA.
“Most importantly, all chemical products are traded duty free under NAFTA, and a modernized NAFTA should maintain this policy,” they said.
While it's not at all clear what exactly the Trump administration will pursue in NAFTA talks, Washington has been debating border adjustment taxes on imports to the United States and other measures that would upset that duty-free arrangement.
The associations said trade in chemicals between the three NAFTA countries has grown from $20 billion in 1994 to $63 billion in 2014.