First Post-USMCA Challenge: COVID-19 Border Closures

March 20, 2020 by Dan McCue
First Post-USMCA Challenge: COVID-19 Border Closures
Virus Outbreak US Canada Border

WASHINGTON – The Canada-U.S. border will close to all non-essential travel in both directions Friday night, and officials are set to impose similar restrictions at the U.S. border with Mexico later today.

It was only two months ago President Donald Trump signed the implementing legislation for the USMCA, a trade deal with Canada and Mexico to replace NAFTA, that was agreed to after three years of negotiations with the United States’ North American neighbor and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

As he finally put pen to paper at a White House ceremony on Jan 29, Trump took a victory lap, pointing to the deal as a major campaign promise fulfilled and one that ultimately garnered bipartisan support, after changes to the deal sought by House Democrats.

What a difference two months make.

Since then, the world has been gripped by coronavirus pandemic, prompting an almost unprecedented slowdown in economic and government activity.

On Thursday, the Canadian government said it would be closing its border with the U.S., with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, himself on self-quarantine, saying it might take “weeks to months” for social-distancing measures in his country to be lifted amid the pandemic.

Later, the White House released a read-out of an earlier call between Trudeau and the president, in which they mutually agreed to reduce movement across the United States-Canada border to essential travel only.

The two leaders also agreed it was important to preserve supply chains and trade, regardless of travel restrictions.

Trudeau said his government is following the advice of health experts and won’t lift restrictions on public activities and movements in Canada until it is safe to do so.

But Canada relies on the U.S. for 75% of its exports and about 18% of American exports go to Canada.

Essential cross-border workers like health-care professionals, airline crews and truck drivers will also be permitted to cross.

“People should not be traveling between Canada and the U.S. and the U.S. and Canada to be tourists or for recreational purposes,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said after Trudeau spoke.

“Trade, which is essential, will continue,” she continued. “Don’t make discretionary trips and that is what border officials will be enforcing.”

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce immediately threw its support behind the decision, acknowledging that in light of the “escalating COVID-19 crisis” it is “imperative to protect public health.”

But at the same time, it said, “businesses know first-hand the impact of border restrictions on getting the goods and services our country needs to fill grocery store shelves, as well as the impact on exporting abroad.”

Given this reality, it called on the Canadian government “to ensure the most open flow possible across all modes of transportation and to quickly publish detailed guidance for businesses to understand what it means for service providers, business travelers, and those involved in the movement of goods.

“The government will also need to ensure it maintains open lines of communication for businesses to have a resource when they need to understand how today’s announcement applies in their specific situation,” the organization said.

It went on to encourage both the Canadian and American governments to work together at a global level to prevent the proliferation of export restrictions and support the implementation of global standards to permit the continued operation of global air cargo traffic.

In the meantime, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been speaking by phone with Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrand, about the “importance of creating a uniform North American strategy . . . and to prioritize continuing essential cross-border commerce and trade,” according to a State Department spokesperson.

It has been estimated that more  than $1 billion in goods — an astounding $1 million per minute — crosses the U.S border with Mexico each day.

In a tweet late Thursday, Ebrand said, “I spoke with Secretary Mike Pompeo. I proposed to him that the measures to avoid propagation of COVID-19 did not paralyze economic activity and that the border should continue to be open to commerce and work. I found good willingness. Tomorrow [Friday] I will inform in detail on progress.”

No further details were immediately available from the White House or the Mexican government, but President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday with Ebrard in attendance.

For his part, President Trump, who has been pushing for additional funding to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants, said earlier this week that he is considering invoking a 1944 law that allows him to ban people from entering the U.S. if there is “serious danger” of introducing a contagious disease into the country. 

Asked at a White House press briefing, whether he planned to close the southern border with Mexico, Trump said, “No, we’re not going to close it. But we are invoking a certain provision that will allow us great latitude as to what we do.”

A+
a-
  • closed borders
  • Coronavirus
  • Mexico
  • USMCA
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    Trade

    Biden to Convene New Supply Chain Council, Announce 30 Steps to Strengthen US Logistics

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday will convene the first meeting of his supply chain resilience council, using the event... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Monday will convene the first meeting of his supply chain resilience council, using the event to announce 30 actions to improve access to medicine and needed economic data and other programs tied to the production and shipment of goods. “We’re determined... Read More

    October 11, 2023
    by Kate Michael
    Trade Rep. Tai Outlines Biden's Worker-Centered Trade Policies 

    WASHINGTON — The United States is at a crossroads in its trade agenda, with pivotal negotiations and policy shifts on... Read More

    WASHINGTON — The United States is at a crossroads in its trade agenda, with pivotal negotiations and policy shifts on the horizon. Two notable initiatives, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity and the Global Arrangement for Sustainable Steel and Aluminum, are set to redefine how the... Read More

    August 10, 2023
    by Tom Ramstack
    Biden Orders Restrictions on Trade With China in National Security Move

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday restricting American investments and exports of expertise in high-tech technologies... Read More

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday restricting American investments and exports of expertise in high-tech technologies China is developing that could be used for its military modernization. The order targets investment in semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum computing and some artificial intelligence. Biden... Read More

    July 28, 2023
    by Kate Michael
    Commerce Secretary Raimondo Spearheads Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

    WASHINGTON — While Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are on their tandem investment visit... Read More

    WASHINGTON — While Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are on their tandem investment visit to the Indo-Pacific, a third Biden administration official, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, was touting the region as an epicenter of economic growth and dynamism at... Read More

    February 10, 2023
    by Dan McCue
    US Farm Exports Reached Record $196B in 2022

    WASHINGTON — International sales of U.S. farm and food products reached $196 billion last year, shattering the previous export record... Read More

    WASHINGTON — International sales of U.S. farm and food products reached $196 billion last year, shattering the previous export record set in 2021. According to the Commerce Department, which released final 2022 trade data this week, U.S. agricultural exports increased 11% compared to a year earlier,... Read More

    December 6, 2022
    by Dan McCue
    Charleston, SC, Now Boasts East Coast’s Deepest Harbor

    CHARLESTON, S.C. — With the successful completion of a $580 million harbor-deepening project, Charleston Harbor is now the deepest harbor... Read More

    CHARLESTON, S.C. — With the successful completion of a $580 million harbor-deepening project, Charleston Harbor is now the deepest harbor on the U.S. East Coast at 52 feet. The new depth means the biggest cargo ships currently in service can now access the state’s port terminals... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top