Discovering the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA)
By Francisco A. Avalos
Francisco A. Avalos joined the James E. Rogers College of Law in 1982 as the Foreign and International Law Librarian and Associate Professor for Legal Research. His area of expertise is Latin American legal research with an emphasis on Mexico. He has written extensively and made many presentations in this area of the law. Mr. Avalos has served as Secretary-Treasurer and Chairperson of the Foreign, Comparative, and International Law SIS of the American Association of Law Libraries and served on the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals Advisory Committee. Mr. Avalos retired 2009 to dedicate himself to writing and doing consultant work. Since his retirement he has published The Mexican Legal System: A Comprehensive Research Guide (3d ed.), The “Legal History of Mexico: The Discovery to the Present (William Hien Publications), The Avalos Legal Glossary/Dictionary Translator and Other Related Fields of Study: English/Spanish Spanish/English. He also updated the Mexico section of the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citations for the 20th edition. He serves as a special consultant to the Kozolchyk National Law Center.
Published September/October 2021
Table of Contents
For research help on the preceding NAFTA and CAFTA-DR agreements, see Francisco Avalos, UPDATE: Basic Primary and Secondary Information Online Sources for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the United States Central American Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) Research, GlobaLex (February 2016), which is intended to serve as a one-stop research guidance on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the United States Central American Free Trade Agreement-Dominican Republic.
The objective of this article is to serve as a one stop research guide to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and to point out some of the changes instituted by the passage of USMCA and the annulment of NAFTA. The major documents and institutions related to the USMCA Agreement are identified, and a citation to the item is given. The websites cited were chosen for the authority and reputation of the sponsor of the website and the completeness of information provided. The updating policy and the ease of navigation of the websites were also considered for inclusion into this article. Also, free websites were favored over websites that required payment. Websites with little information on the website itself and consisting mainly of links to other websites for the actual desired information were avoided. Most of the citations found in this article are annotated as to content and research value of the website. The citations that are not annotated are the ones where the title of the website made the content obvious.
2. Overview of the United States-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement
On November 30, 2018, the leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada signed the United States-Mexico-Canadian Free Trade Agreement (USMCA). The new trade agreement was set to go into force on July 1, 2020, on which date the USMCA superseded the North American Free Trade Agreement of January 1, 1994 (NAFTA). The USMCA cannot be seen as a new trade agreement but rather as the modernization of NAFTA. Since NAFTA first appeared in 1994, the world of international trade has undergone a revolution in substance and practices. Electronic commerce and all its implications called for a revisit to the world of international trade which is what USMCA does.
The Preamble sets forth the overall major objectives of USMCA. The three overall major objectives are set forth as the “The Government of the United States of America, the Government of the United Mexican States, and the Government of Canada (collectively “the Parties”), resolving to: Strengthen anew the longstanding friendship between them and their peoples, and the strong economic cooperation that has developed through trade and investment; Further strengthen their close economic relationship.”
USMCA consists of two major Protocols, a Preamble, 34 Chapters, 13 Agreement Annexes, and 16 Side Letters. The first protocol concerns the replacement of NAFTA with USMCA. Article 1 of the protocol states, “Upon entry into force of this Protocol, the USMCA, attached as an Annex to this Protocol, shall supersede the NAFTA, without prejudice to those provisions set forth in the USMCA that refer to provision of the NAFTA.” The second protocol concerns the addition of amendments to USMCA. The protocol states in part, “Desiring to amend the Agreement between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada, done at Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018.” The first section of the Protocol deletes and/or adds to and relates annexes to the chapters listed below: “Chapter 1 (Initial Provisions); Chapter 4 (Rules of Origin); Chapter 20 (Intellectual Property Rights); Chapter 23 (Labor); Chapter 24 (Environment); Chapter 30 (Administrative and Institutional Provisions); Chapter 31 (Dispute Settlement). Annex 20-A to Article 20.50; 31-A Facility-Specific Rapid Response Labor Mechanism; Annex 31-B Canada -Mexico Facility- Specific Rapid Response Labor Mechanism.” Also on the second protocol there are Letters Regarding Draft Statements of Administrative Action.
Some of the major changes occurred in the digital trade sector, rules of origin in the automotive sector, intellectual property rights sector, human rights sector, environmental protection sector, and agricultural sector. Further additions and deletions occurred in the financial services sectors, trade and investment sectors, and telecommunications sector. Also of note is Chapter 25 which is dedicated to small and medium-sized enterprises. Article 1 of Chapter 25 states “The Parties, recognizing the fundamental role of SMES in maintaining dynamism and enhancing competitiveness of their respective economies, shall foster close cooperation between SMEs of the Parties and cooperate in promoting jobs and growth in SMEs.” Chapter 25 – Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. Also, of note is the creation of rapid-response mechanisms to resolve disputes and enforce provisions. This “allows an independent, three-person panel chosen by both Parties to request on-site verifications in any of our three countries when there are good faith questions.”
USMCA establishes an Advisory Committee Report, under which there are the Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations (ACTPN), Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy (LAC), Agriculture Policy Advisory (APAC), Trade and Environment Policy, Advisory Committee (TEPAC), Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC), and Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC). Advisory Committees Reports also produces Fact Sheets and Free Trade Commission Decisions. Other informational topics covered are U.S. Automotive Sector Impact Analysis, What They Are Saying, and Benefits for the Environment in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. An excellent source for a more detailed report of the major difference between USMCA and NAFTA is the International Trade Administration website.
3. United States Mexico Canada (USMCA) Agreement Institutions
Chapter 30 titled Administrative and Institutional Provisions of the USMCA Agreement lays out the Agreement’s institutions. The Agreement sets out a Commission composed of government representatives of each Party at the level of Ministers or their designees. The Commission establishes a Secretariat comprising of national Sections (see Article 30.6 of the USMCA Agreement).
The Secretariat is a joint effort by the three nations to address the major issue of commercial disputes in a timely and impartial manner. The site contains information on dispute settlement proceedings, legal texts and panel decisions and reports. Here you will also find the Code of Conduct, Procedure Rules and Procedure Rues. The USMCA Secretariat is composed of three sections/parts. Each Section is responsible for establishing an office that handles all commercial disputes arising in the particular nation.
4. USMCA Documentation
USMCA Text: The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) provides access to the text of USMCA and much more. This website is a one stop website for most all information dealing with USMCA.
Protocol of Amendment to the Agreement Between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada is available on the website of the Office of the US Trade Representative – Free Trade Agreements.
Advisory Committee Reports: The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) provides access to the Advisory Committee Reports. All reports appear on this website (Advisory Committee for Trade Policy Negotiations (ACTPN); Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy (LAC); Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC); Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC); Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC). This is the website for Advisory Committee Reports but not all of them.
- USMCA Free Trade Commission Decision No. 1
- Annex I: Uniform Regulations
- Annex II: Rules of Procedure for Article 10.12 (Binational Panel Reviews)
- Annex III: Rules of Procedure and Code of Conduct
- Annex IV: Roster of Panelists for Chapter 31 Dispute Settlement Panels
- Annex V: United States – Mexico Lists of Rapid Response Labor Panelists
- Annex VI: Canada – Mexico Lists of Rapid Response Labor Panelists
- Annex VII: Mexico’s List of Panelists for Chapter 10 (Trade Remedies)
Fact Sheets: All Fact Sheets are listed on the Office of the US Trade Representative website.
- Modernizing NAFTA into a 21st Century Trade Agreement
- Rebalancing Trade to Support Manufacturing
- Strengthening North American Trade in Agriculture
- Agriculture: Market Access and Dairy Outcomes of the USMC Agreement
- Supporting America’s Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
- USMCA State Fact Sheets
- USMCA Issue-Specific Fact Sheets
- USMCA Web-Based Hotline
Letter Regarding Draft Statement of Administrative Action: four letters from Robert E. Lighthizer. Lighthizer addressed to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Vice-President Mike Pence, and Senator Chuck Grassley, respectively.
U.S. Automotive Sector Impact Analysis: Estimated Impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on the US Automotive Sector.
5. Online Resources for USMCA
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): The website offers the following headings for investigation; Overview, Entry-into Force, Uniform Regulations, General Note, and Implementation Instructions - Final (as of June 30, 2020), Compliance Guidance and Additional Resources. This is the ideal website for the businessperson who needs forms and access to custom’s offices. I would recommend this website as a good and comprehensive one-stop resource.
International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. This website is aimed at the businesspeople ready to start trading with Mexico and Canada. This website and the Customs website mentioned above are ideal for the businessperson.
- Office of the United States Trade Representative
- Ellen Kershner, What Is the USMCA Free Trade Agreement?, WorldAtlas (May 18, 2020)
- USMCA Regulations Released, Scarborough International, Ltd. (June 6, 2020) (joint review, every 6 years to ensure the agreements remain up to date)
- UNITED STATES–MEXICO–CANADA TRADE FACT SHEET Agriculture: Market Access and Dairy Outcomes of the USMC Agreement.
- USMCA Forms
- Certification of Origin form
6. Secondary Sources for USMCA
- NAFTA and the USMCA (NAFTA 2.0) is the International Trade Law Research Guide produced by the Georgetown Law Library addressing the USMCA and the NAFTA Agreements. The website has citations to primary and secondary materials.
- Michael Konidaris, USMCA and the Potential Impact on the US Economy, 2019. Presentation focusing on the history of the USMCA, its provisions, legislative procedures, data, and its impact on the US economy. This presentation would be of particular interest to businesspeople.
- Leslie Alan Glick, United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA): Legal and Business Implications, Alphen Aan Den Rijn: Wolters Kluwer, 2020. This book is aimed directly at the businesses wishing to consider free trade with Mexico and Canada.
- John D. Goodrich, USMCA: A Practical Guide to Regulation Documentation and Procedures, Global Training Center, 2021. This book, “was designed predominantly with U.S. exporters and importers in mind.”
- Interagency Labor Committee for Monitoring and Enforcement Procedural Guidelines for Petitions Pursuant to the USMCA, 85 FR 39257 (FR Doc. 2020-14086) (June 30, 2020) (addressing labor issues of the USMCA)
- Export Procedures and Documentation: An In-Depth Guide, Shipping Solutions (last visited August 2021) offers commentary on incorporating the USMCA in export procedures.
- Jen Kirby, USMCA, Trumps’ New NAFTA Deal, Explained in 600 Words, VOX (July 1, 2020) offers brief introduction to the USMCA agreement focusing on country of origin rules, labor provisions, impact on US farmers, Intellectual property and digital trade, and sunset clause.
- Gregory Spak, Francisco de Rosenzweig, Dean A. Barclay, Matt Solomon, and Brian Picone, Overview of Chapter 4 (Rules of Origin) of the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, White & Case LLP Alert (October 25, 2018) outlines the issue of rules of origins and their difficulty in international trade, and adds an analysis of critical points of the USMCA..
- Angel Ramirez and Josh Ostrowski, U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – What do De Minimis changes mean for U.S. Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)?, BakerTilly (October 15, 2020) focuses on addressing the issue of small businesses and the special mention in the USMCA encouraging their participation in the free trade agreement.
 Protocol of Amendment to the USMCA. Protocol-of-Amendments-to-the-United-States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement.pdf (ustr.gov).
 Protocol of Amendment to the Agreement Between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada. Protocol-of-Amendments-to-the-United-States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement.pdf (ustr.gov).
 Advisory Committee Reports. Advisory Committee Reports | United States Trade Representative (ustr.gov).
 Advisory Committee Reports. Advisory Committee Reports | United States Trade Representative (ustr.gov).
 Agreement between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada 7/1/20 Text, United States Trade Representative (last visited August 2021).