Washington — Aiming for a united front as the renegotiations of NAFTA begin, plastics industry leaders in Canada, Mexico and the United States released a joint statement July 7 opposing new tariffs and pushing greater harmonization of regulations.
Leaders of the three largest plastics industry groups — the Plastics Industry Association in the United States, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association and Mexico's Asociación Nacional de Industrias del Plástico AC — met July 5 in Mexico City and outlined a seven-point agenda.
The groups said the plastics industries in the three nations have "grown immensely" since NAFTA took effect in 1994, and they see modernization talks as a way to continue that growth.
But they have some concerns. For example, they oppose restrictions on where companies can manufacture.
"Our three organizations stand unified in wanting to support the growth and development of our industry across North America," said Bill Carteaux, president of the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association. "Strengthening NAFTA will enable us to work together to develop new solutions to our world's environmental challenges while also benefiting the millions of workers in the three NAFTA member nations."
Specifically, the associations highlighted several specific areas, including aligning regulations on food packaging across NAFTA and a "continent-wide harmonization of the treatment of plastics as sustainable materials" in government procurement and other areas.
The groups oppose any new tariffs as part of NAFTA, even as President Trump and others in Washington have floated a border adjustment tax.
"The absence of tariffs is what's made NAFTA so successful for all three member nations' plastics industries over the last 25 years," the joint statement said. "The North American plastics industry is united in its opposition to any new tariffs that would have a profoundly negative impact on all three nations and their workers."
The three associations said they want easier travel and work requirements, and they welcome a review of NAFTA's rules of origin, which require cars to have 62.5 percent NAFTA region content to qualify for benefits under the trade pact.
As well, the plastics associations want simplified trade and customs declarations, including the ability to access and file customs documents online.
"As policymakers enacted NAFTA before the age of digital commerce, its lack of provisions pertaining to digital commerce are a perennial weakness," the associations said.
The group also opposes any attempt to limit where within NAFTA companies manufacture their products.
"The diversity of labor costs in North America provides immense benefits to our industries, and allows each of them to be competitive globally," they said. "We would oppose attempts to restrict the choices manufacturers have when it comes to where and how they make their products."
In the statement, Carol Hochu, the president and CEO of CPIA, said the policy priorities would help the plastics industry take advantage of the growth of North America's energy industry.
And Anipac President Juan Antonio Hernandez said NAFTA modernization talks are a chance to "take things into overdrive" in ways that lead to more innovation and stronger trade links.
Alfonso Garcia, Anipac's executive secretary and vice president of Bamberger Polymers de México, added in an email to Plastics News: "We are looking forward to modern and cooperative agreement."
THE SHARED PRIORITIES INCLUDE:
- Continued support of the growth and development of the North American plastics industry.
- Harmonization of regulations of all types as they affect the industry.
- A review of the rules of origin.
- A simplification and modernization of trade and customs documentation.
- Ease of employee access throughout the continent.
- No new tariffs.
- Continued labor cost flexibility between the three nations.