The United States has requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under Chapter 31 of the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement (“USMCA”) concerning a range of energy policies adopted by the Government of Mexico that the United States believes discriminate against U.S. interests in violation of the USMCA.  According to a press release issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai:

Mexico’s policies have largely cut off U.S. and other investment in the country’s clean energy infrastructure, including significant steps to roll back reforms Mexico previously made to meet its climate goals under the Paris Agreement.  Mexico’s policy changes threaten to push private sector innovation out of the Mexican energy market.  To reach our shared regional economic and development goals and climate goals, current and future supply chains need clean, reliable, and affordable energy.

Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng has indicated that Canada has joined the United States in challenging these actions through the same dispute settlement mechanism.  This is the first time that the United States and Canada have both pursued USMCA dispute settlement consultations with Mexico on policies of mutual concern.

Continue Reading United States Seeks USMCA Dispute Settlement Consultations With Mexico Over Range of Energy Policies

2022 is shaping up to be a critical year for the Biden Administration regarding U.S. international trade policy.  In 2021, the Biden Administration made headway in resolving some of the challenges with United States’ allies that arose during the last Administration, and trying to build bridges in important regions that had perhaps had been neglected.  But in a number of other critical areas, and arguably in the most significant areas, the Biden Administration made little tangible progress over the past year.  The discussion below offers a look back at the key developments in 2021 with respect to U.S. trade relations with the EU, China, the rest of Asia and North America, and a look ahead at what could come in 2022.

Continue Reading The US International Trade Agenda: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

As the Biden Administration settles into its second month in office some signals have emerged that have offered insights into the potential direction of US trade policy. Key trade officials, including United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, have testified before the Senate as part of their confirmation processes.  The testimonies and responses of both nominees, in combination with the recently released USTR “2021 Presidential Trade Policy Agenda” report, have provided an early blueprint of the President Biden Administration’s position on current trade issues — including USMCA, potential free-trade agreements, US policy towards China, and the climate agenda – and possible new directions.

The international community has been watching these early indicators closely in order to gauge the likely track of US trade policy.   Professionals from Steptoe’s trade group who practice in major jurisdictions around the world weigh in with their take on how those jurisdictions are reacting to these early signals from the US.

Continue Reading International Responses to President Biden’s Trade Policy Positions

The Government of Canada intends to add certain Plastic Manufactured Items to the list of substances appearing on Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), fulfilling the Trudeau Government’s commitment to act on plastic waste released into the Canadian environment.  Importantly, the listing functions as a regulatory mechanism and necessary first step for later enacting prohibitions on certain plastic wastes, but does not, in and of itself, prohibit the sale or use of any plastic consumer or industrial products.

The Proposed Order,[1] which is expected to become effective in 2021, amends Schedule 1 to list Plastic Manufactured Items as a class of materials considered by the Canadian Government to be toxic under CEPA, Canada’s primary environmental protection act.[2]  In support of the Proposed Order, the Canadian Government compiled a Science Assessment on Plastic Pollution,[3] which outlines the bases for the conclusions that plastic pollution is an ongoing problem that requires mitigation under CEPA, and that such pollution poses an actual or potential risk of harm to the environment and human or animal health.

The addition of Plastic Manufactured Items to Schedule 1 authorizes the Canadian Government to propose and implement policies, consistent with CEPA, that are designed to address and mitigate plastic pollution throughout the supply chain, including: manufacturing, transportation, commerce, consumption, and disposal.  Despite the Government’s actions, however, a significant amount of confusion regarding the scope and intent of future regulatory actions remains to be addressed; in the meantime, numerous industry associations have submitted comments expressing concerns over the method of regulatory action, the lack of specificity and corresponding consequences that may result from such activity, and potential commercial and international trade impacts.  The provinces of Alberta and Ontario have expressed some of these same concerns.[4]

Continue Reading Grasping at Straws: Regulatory and Trade Considerations Regarding Canada’s Proposed Single Use Plastics Policy