Mexico will not withdraw from the T-MEC; seeks respect for its sovereignty

The Executive ruled out that the country will join the trade bloc of China, India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa. More on T-MEC tensions between Mexico and U.S. here.

Mexico will not withdraw from the T-MEC; seeks respect for its sovereignty
Treaty between Mexico, the United States and Canada (T-MEC). Image: Pixabay

Mexico does not intend to abandon the T-MEC, it only seeks respect for its energy sovereignty, stated President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. During yesterday's morning press conference, he informed that he has already sent a letter to his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, to express his surprise at the call for consultations as part of the agreement on Mexico's energy policy.

The head of the Federal Executive also ruled out that our country could join the trade bloc with Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (Brics), and stated instead that the relationship with North America is very consolidated.

"The only thing we are looking for is that our sovereignty is respected, that this (trade) integration does not mean submission. And fortunately, President Biden has expressed this to me more than once, that the relationship has to be on an equal footing and respect for our sovereignty, that is why I have even told him that unlike the phrase attributed to Porfirio Díaz, I maintain that: 'Blessed Mexico, so close to God and not so far from the United States".

When asked about the possibility of Mexico joining the Brics, the President said: "I do not consider that to be an option. Of course, each country is free and sovereign, and it can establish economic, financial, and commercial relations with other countries, in other regions, but we have good relations with the government of the United States and Canada, and due to our proximity it is convenient for us to maintain that cooperation".

He added: "They are very good markets, it is the most important market in the world, and historically we have maintained economic, commercial and cultural relations. There are almost 40 million Mexicans in the United States of Mexican origin or born in Mexico who now work and progress (in that nation). We are in an optimal place in the world geography".

Regarding the missive sent to Biden, he stated that he could not disclose its content, as he first wants his U.S. counterpart to receive it; but at the reporters' insistence he asked, "Do you want a preview?"

The affirmative response from the journalists made him advance that in the letter he states, "That I do not consider false or discursive what President Biden has told me on several occasions, that our relationship will be with respect for our sovereignty, on an equal footing and that we will always seek good neighborliness. I have already given them a part of it".

The Chief Executive highlighted the mutual dependence between the three North American nations, for example, he said, the US automotive industry depends on the production of auto parts in Mexico, otherwise, a vehicle in their market would cost between 10,000 and 15,000 dollars more.

On the subject of security, he pointed out that cooperation with the United States should not involve differences or haggling, but rather acting jointly and with respect for their sovereignty.

Changes that were made to the T-MEC

Labor Standards

U.S. unions accused NAFTA of stealing manufacturing jobs because Mexican labor is cheaper. Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, had warned that she would not admit the new agreement unless they provided guarantees that Mexico would meet labor standards.

After months of negotiations, Pelosi said that the agreement was "infinitely better" than the original. The new text was also welcomed by the powerful AFL-CIO union whose president, Richard Trunka, said that for the first time there will be labor standards whose compliance can be monitored.

The new provisions will force Mexico to comply with labor reforms it has already approved and to allow verification of its labor standards for goods and services, under penalty of sanctions. The verification will be carried out by "independent labor experts. Mexico did not allow factory inspections.

Environmental regulations

The Democrats insisted on including strict environmental standards and mechanisms to monitor compliance. As with labor, the agreement creates "environmental aggregates" in Mexico City that will oversee its laws and regulations.


The revision of the text included the chapter on medicines. The changes removed rules requiring the three partners to grant at least 10 years of exclusivity for biological drugs, which will facilitate the rapid entry of generics into the market and thus reduce prices.

Economic impact

From its entry into force, NAFTA boosted U.S. trade, helped stabilize Mexico's economy, and restructured the manufacturing sector into a tri-national production chain. Some, including Trump, accuse NAFTA of destroying U.S. jobs, but more jobs were lost to technology.

And NAFTA gave a big boost to GDP that surpassed the jobs lost by the treaty, according to the Peterson Institute of Economics. An analysis by the U.S. International Trade Commission said that in six years, the T-MEC will raise U.S. real GDP by 0.35 percent and generate 176,000 jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.

Increased trade

The Commission believes that the new pact will increase U.S. imports from Canada and Mexico, and equally so exports to those markets. In 2017 Canada and Mexico were among the United States' largest partners. The United States exported goods worth 292 billion dollars to Canada and 243 billion dollars to Mexico in 2017.

In comparison, the United States exported to China, its third-largest customer, goods for only 130 million dollars. Meanwhile, the leading global economy received products from Canada for 314 million dollars in 2017 and $299 million from Mexico.

Cars: higher wages

Car manufacturing was a key element. To be traded duty-free, T-Mec will require that 75 percent of the composition of the vehicles originate in the region when under NAFTA the rate was 62.5 percent.

Also, between 40 and 45 percent of it must be manufactured by operators who earn at least 16 dollars per hour. Mexico has admitted to respecting the safety standards established by the United States unless the Mexican authorities conclude that they are inferior to theirs.

Dispute Resolution

At Canada's insistence, the United States agreed to maintain the system of dispute settlement among partners; formerly known as Chapter 19. But some changes were made to the mechanism known as "Investor-State Dispute Settlement. Critics say this allows powerful companies and investors to override local laws or judgments through a mechanism that is not subject to arbitrations demanding accountability.

Digital Commerce

When NAFTA was born in 1994, digital trade hardly existed at all, but 25 years later it became a key negotiating factor for a new agreement. The T-MEC prohibits the application of customs duties to digitally distributed goods such as software, games, books, music, and films. It also restricts the power of governments to force companies to reveal ownership of source code or impose restrictions on where data can be stored.

Chinese clause

Included in the agreement is a provision that seems designed to prevent Mexico or Canada from seeking a better agreement with Beijing. If a signatory seeks a free trade agreement with an economy not considered as a "market" - read China - the other parties can cancel the trilateral agreement and establish a bilateral one.

Twilight clause

The new agreement will be in force for 16 years but will be reviewed every six years. If the parties decide to renew it, it will be in force for another 16 years. But if a problem arises, a period of 10 years is opened to negotiate a solution and if it is not reached, the T-MEC will expire.