MONTREAL -- U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick met with
his Canadian and Mexican counterparts at the annual meeting of the NAFTA Free Trade
Commission. Canadian Minister for International Trade Pierre S. Pettigrew hosted the meeting in
Montreal, also attended by Mexican Secretary of the Economy Fernando Canales.
"The last ten years have demonstrated that the NAFTA has generated
real and tangible benefits to all three countries. Since 1994, trilateral trade among the NAFTA
partners has more than doubled, to over $621 billion, and the expansion in trade has
generated benefits to workers, farmers, consumers, and manufacturers," Zoellick said.
As part of the ongoing commitment to make the NAFTA more
responsive to the needs of the public, the Commission produced two statements to enhance the
transparency and efficiency of NAFTA’s investor-state arbitration (Chapter 11 of the NAFTA
-- an affirmation of the authority of investor-state tribunals to
accept written submissions (amicus curiae briefs) by non-disputing parties,
coupled with recommended procedures for tribunals on the handling of such
-- endorsement of a standard form for the Notices of Intent to
initiate arbitration that disputing investors are required to submit under Article 1119 of
"We are pleased that we have been able to take further steps to
enhance the public participation and understanding of the dispute settlement process," Ambassador
Zoellick said. Separately, the United States and Canada affirmed that they will consent to
opening to the public hearings in Chapter 11 disputes to which either is a party, and to request the
consent of disputing investors to such open hearings. The United States and Canada will continue to
work with Mexico on this matter.
The Commission agreed to commence a study of the most favored
nation tariffs of the three countries, in order to determine if harmonizing these tariffs
could further promote trade by reducing transaction costs. The Commission also agreed to pursue
further liberalization of the rules of origin. Since nearly all tariffs between the Parties have
been eliminated, reducing the costs associated with trade, such as those associated with
compliance with the rules of origin, will generate additional benefits for exporters.
Ministers welcomed the creation of the North American Steel Trade
Committee, which will foster increased cooperation among the partners’ industries on
international steel policy matters. The committee will meet for the first time on November 21 in
Ministers discussed the impending liberalization of international
textile and apparel trade at the end of 2004 and steps that could be taken to prepare our
industries for an increasingly competitive global market. The Commission asked Deputies to
explore initiatives to improve North American competitiveness, including encouraging greater
integration among NAFTA countries and with our other free trade agreement partners in the
hemisphere, notably with significant trade and partnership arrangements within our
industries in Central America. The Commission asked Deputies to explore cooperative efforts in areas
such as customs and transshipment rules.
The NAFTA Free Trade Commission is composed of the trade ministers
from each of the NAFTA countries. It has overall responsibility for the operation
of the Agreement. The full text of the Joint Statement as well as the new informational brochure,
"NAFTA, A Decade of Strengthening a Dynamic Relationship," can be found at
www.ustr.gov. The United States will host the next meeting of the Commission in 2004.