NAFTA Talks: Pena Nieto On Speaker, Trudeau On Blast

After months of deadlock over the future of NAFTA, President Trump yesterday went on TV, patched in Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto by speakerphone, and announced a breakthrough. The two sides have agreed to revisions that would concentrate more auto production in North America, boost minimum wage requirements for some automobile sector workers, and extend NAFTA for 16 years with a formal review after six. The agreement, Trump said, would be renamed as a US-Mexico pact.


So far so good, or… wait, what? Conspicuously absent from the press conference, and from the new agreement altogether, is Canada – the third party to NAFTA, and the US’ second largest trade partner. And that’s where things get tricky.

While Mexico seems to see the new agreement with Trump as a basis for Canadian inclusion in a final pact, Trump has suggested that if Canada doesn’t like what it sees, the US will go ahead with a US-Mexico bilateral agreement. The Mexican government is keen to get all of this done before leftist president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes office in December. The White House, for its part, plans to send notification of the new pact up to Capitol Hill as soon as this week to begin the clock on a 90-day notification period before final approval can take place, Canada or not.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now in a tough spot. On the one hand, he knows that exclusion from a deal could inflict huge economic pain on his country. On the other, he wants to make sure that any revisions to the deal preserve strong mechanisms for bringing trade cases against a tariff-happy US, maintain protections for Canada’s politically important dairy industry, and eliminate any mandatory expiration of the pact. What’s more, he wants to avoid the appearance of caving to Trump, whom most Canadians deeply dislike.

For Trump, who relishes raising the stakes in order to force concessions, the optimal outcome is that Canada reluctantly climbs aboard the new pact, Congress approves it as an update to NAFTA (ideally renaming it something like the Tremendous and Recently Updated Manufacturing Pact Agreement), and the President sails towards 2020 with a nice feather in his cap.

One big risk for Trump, though, is that failure to get a deal with Canada forces him to withdraw from NAFTA in order to implement a new bilateral deal with Mexico. This could get legally and politically messy. First, there’s legal ambiguity about the process for removing the US from NAFTA, meaning a protracted and economically-damaging legal battle could arise. Second, Congress doesn’t want this: withdrawing from NAFTA is unpopular politically – more than two-thirds of Americans still support the deal, and while GOP voters narrowly oppose it, many GOP donors are in favor. Canada, of course, is the top trade partner for a majority of US states.

As he often loves to do, Trump is raising the stakes stratospherically high in order to try to pressure his opponents (if one can call Canada that) into concessions. But he is also taking a sizable political risk if things don’t work out. Keep an eye on Ottawa and on Capitol Hill in the coming days.

In July, Microsoft took legal action against COVID-19-related cybercrime that came in the form of business email compromise attacks. Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a damaging form of cybercrime, with the potential to cost a company millions of dollars. Even the most astute can fall victim to one of these sophisticated schemes. The 2019 FBI cybercrime report indicates that losses from Business Email Compromise attacks are approximately $1.7 billion, which accounts for almost half of all losses due to cybercrime. As more and more business activity goes online, there is an increased opportunity for cybercriminals to target people in BEC attacks and other cybercrime. Their objective is to compromise accounts in order to steal money or other valuable information. As people become aware of existing schemes and they're no longer as effective, the tactics and techniques used by cybercriminals evolve.

To read about how Microsoft is working to protect customers, visit Microsoft on the Issues

"Go ahead, take it," President Putin says to you.

"Take what?" you ask.

"This Covid vaccine," he continues, turning a small syringe over in his hands. "It's safe. Trust me. We… tested it on my daughter."

Would you do it? Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that a lot of people will say yes. On Tuesday he announced that Russia has become the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine, and that mass vaccinations will begin there in October.

More Show less

The global race is on to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. While it usually takes many years to develop and widely distribute vaccines, scientists around the world are now trying to get one ready within an unprecedented time frame: 12-18 months. And while there is some international cooperation in that effort, there's also fierce competition among countries, as everyone wants to develop a vaccine on their home turf first, not only for prestige, but also to get their citizens at the front of the line for the shots when they are available. There are hundreds in development, but to date only eight vaccines have progressed to Phase III of the clinical trial process, meaning they are being tested on thousands of people and the results are compared with those who receive a placebo drug. Phase III is the final stage before approval. Who's gotten there so far?

45: A new poll says that 45 percent of Italians would support leaving the European Union if the UK economy remains in a "good state" five years after Brexit. Calls for a national referendum on "Italexit" are gaining steam in Italy, where a new anti-EU party is capitalizing on the sentiment that the EU abandoned the country at its darkest hour with COVID-19 (despite Italy later getting the lion's share of the EU's coronavirus rescue package).

More Show less

Anyone with a pulse and a smartphone probably knows by now that the US-China rivalry is heating up these days, and fast. (If you know anyone who doesn't, get them a Signal subscription.)

More Show less