With two rounds of NAFTA modernization talks completed, and a third session coming up on Sept. 23 in Ottawa, it’s timely to consider what kind of negotiating milestones would point to a successful outcome.
Kathryn Hauser believes the U.S., Canada and Mexico can achieve a win-win-win increase in North American competitiveness if they concentrate on upgrading their cooperation in three key areas: services, digital trade, and cross-border data flows. She explains why these should be the crux of a new NAFTA in her recent blog for the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils, which can be found here.
In a related opinion piecethat ran in Canada’s Globe and Mail on Sept. 13, Susan Ariel Aaronson of the George Washington University and Patrick Leblond of the University of Ottawa argue that “NAFTA is the wrong venue to govern digital trade.” Rather, they believe negotiations on this crucial topic should be broadened to encompass the EU and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries as well as North America in order to pose an effective counter to the standard-setting power of China, the world’s largest digital market.
The two professors offer a useful roadmap to a potential digital free trade zone, building on language in the TPP. It’s hard to disagree with their logic, except that multilateral trade initiatives are out of favor with the Trump administration.
NAFTA, however, is on the table (hopefully not the chopping block), and that makes it a good place to start.