Editorial: A Next Step on NAFTA

There’s been a lot of talk, and a good bit of hand-wringing, but last week there was finally a breakthrough on a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement. As of this writing, a deal only existed between the United States and Mexico. But Canada was at the table.

It’s early, but after months of uncertainty about the future of cross-border trade — and, by extension, cross-broder trucking — it’s good to see progress on a new version of this vital trade agreement. Many in trucking have been vocal about its importance to the industry. At first blush, it appears that not a lot has changed as it relates to cross-border freight movements, and that’s good for trucking.

Of note, the agreement is aimed at doing just what President Donald Trump intended in rewriting the deal: narrowing the trade gap between the United States and its trade partners. One of the key provisions calls for sourcing more North American parts for vehicles produced in Mexico. The deal also has requirements aimed at providing better pay for Mexican workers.

On the environmental front, there are measures aimed at addressing air quality and a commitment to keep agricultural products free of tariffs.

In one of the more amusing tenets of the deal, Mexico agreed to recognize bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey as distinct products of the United States while the United States in turn agreed to recognize tequila and mezcal as distinctive products of Mexico.

There were indications that Canada did, in fact, have more time to agree to terms on being included in a deal beyond the Aug. 31 deadline Trump had imposed for the country to come onboard. We suspect that’s true; for something as complex as a long-term trade deal people need time to pore over the details.

That’s certainly true for the trucking industry. American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said his federation looks forward to “examining this new agreement in detail to assess how it will affect motor carriers and the flow of commerce between our North American partners.”

It’s likely many feel the same way. The details matter, of course. But the fact that a deal has been reached sure beats the alternative.