US, Mexico, Canada agree on free trade pact to replace NAFTA

Canadian and US negotiators reached a deal late on September 30, 2018 on reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018

US, Mexico, Canada agree on free trade pact to replace NAFTA

  • The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) updates and replaces the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • After more than a year of talks, and six weeks of intense discussions, the governments were able to overcome their differences with both sides conceding some ground

WASHINGTON: Negotiators from Canada and the United States went down to the wire but were able to reach an agreement on a new free trade pact that will include Mexico, the governments announced late Sunday night.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) updates and replaces the nearly 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Donald Trump had labeled a disaster and promised to cancel.
The rewrite “will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in our region,” according to a joint statement from US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
After more than a year of talks, and six weeks of intense discussions, the governments were able to overcome their differences with both sides conceding some ground, but both hailing the agreement as a good deal for their citizens in the region of 500 million residents that conducts about $1 trillion in trade a year.
Canada will open its dairy market further to US producers, and Washington left unchanged the dispute settlement provisions which Ottawa demanded.
This will allow them to sign the agreement before Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto leaves office December 1, the date that was the cause of the last minute flurry of activity.
Under US law, the White House is required to submit the text of the trade deal to Congress 60 days before signing — and officials barely made it by midnight.
The United States and Mexico had already reached an agreement on a new NAFTA in late August, and since then negotiators from Ottawa had been in Washington for continuous talks, but as of late last week officials warned time was running out.
Trump complained about the behavior of Canadian officials, and said he rejected a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, although Trudeau’s office said no meeting was planned.
A senior US administration official said the final rewrite is a “fantastic agreement” and he called it “a big win for the United States, Mexico and Canada.”
In addition to the changes to the dairy market in Canada, officials said it includes stronger protections for workers, tough environmental rules, and updates the trade relationship to cover the digital economy and provides “groundbreaking” intellectual property protections, the official told reporters.
In addition, it adds provisions to prevent “manipulation” of the trade rules, including covering currency values, and controls over outside countries trying to take advantage of the duty-free market, he said.
While the new deal — which includes revised provisions on the critical auto sector — should protect Mexico and Canada from Trump’s threatened 25 percent tariffs on cars, still pending are the duties on steel and aluminum, which officials said was on a “separate track,” handled by the Commerce Department.


Cathay Pacific to slash workforce, end Cathay Dragon brand due to pandemic

Updated 21 October 2020

Cathay Pacific to slash workforce, end Cathay Dragon brand due to pandemic

  • Airline to seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilot
  • Plans to merge Cathay Dragon into Cathay’s main brand earlier this year hit roadblocks

SYDNEY: Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said on Wednesday it would slash 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand, joining peers in cutting costs as it grapples with a plunge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline would also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots as part of a restructuring that would cost $283.9 million (HK$2.2 billion), it told the stock exchange.
Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions, or 24 percent of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles currently unfilled due to cost reduction initiatives, Cathay said.
“The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive,” Cathay Chief Executive Augustus Tang said in a statement.
Cathay shares jumped almost 7 percent in early trade and were 4 percent higher at 0430 GMT, with broker Jefferies saying the announcement removed a key overhang on the stock.
Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd. have already announced similarly large payroll cuts, as the International Air Transport Association forecasts passenger traffic will not recover until 2024.
Cathay, which has stored around 40 percent of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate less than 50 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.
After receiving a $5 billion rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review that analysts expected would result in major job losses.
The airline said it was bleeding HK$1.5 billion to HK$2 billion of cash a month and the restructuring would stem the outflow by HK$500 million a month in 2021, with executive pay cuts continuing throughout next year.
BOCOM International analyst Luya You said she had expected more strategic insight from the airline on its fleet plans and route network as part of the restructuring.
“Had they revealed more on fleet planning for 2021-22, we would get a much better sense of their outlook,” she said.
The decision to end regional brand Cathay Dragon is in line with rival Singapore Airlines’ pre-pandemic move to fold regional brand Silkair into its main brand.
Cathay Dragon, once known as Dragonair, operated most of the group’s flights to and from mainland China and had been hit by falling demand before the pandemic due to widespread anti-government protests in Hong Kong that deterred mainland travelers.
Plans to merge Cathay Dragon into Cathay’s main brand earlier this year hit roadblocks from China’s aviation regulator because of infractions during last year’s pro-democracy protests, two sources told Reuters in May.
Cathay said the airline would cease operating immediately and it would seek regulatory approval to fold the majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes in Cathay Pacific and low-cost arm HK Express.
In the short-term, the closure of the Cathay Dragon brand will result in it being unable to carry cargo to Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur and Fukuoka, and it will only send dedicated freighters to Xiamen, Chengdu and Hanoi, it told cargo customers in a memo, indicating the routes were cut for now.
“The reintroduction of service coverage will differ from port to port,” Cathay said.
Like Singapore Airlines, Cathay lacks a domestic market to cushion it from the fall in international travel due to border closures.
In September, Cathay’s passenger numbers fell by 98.1 percent compared with a year earlier, though cargo carriage was down by a smaller 36.6 percent.