Canada, Mexico and the US reach a deal to revise NAFTA

Canada, Mexico, and the United States have reached a deal to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The updated treaty will be called US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). It encompasses 34 chapters, covering the trade of goods and services, investment, public procurement, environment and labour, e-commerce, telecommunications, intellectual property, competition policy, small and medium-sized enterprises, anti-corruption, and rules for dispute settlement, among others. Provisions on digital commerce will produce mixed results, according to analysts. Some of them foster greater certainty in online trade, such as norms on the validity of electronic signatures, nondiscriminatory treatment of digital services, and restrictions on imposing customs duties on digital products transmitted electronically; while others raise concerns. The more controversial provisions focus on the rules associated with data, and produce an imbalance between guaranteeing data transfers on the one hand, and ensuring the protection of privacy and consumers on the other. Current practices, such as the localisation of health data in Canada, may be undermined by the new agreement, for example. According to Michael Geist, research chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, “the text could set the standard to be used around the world for decades (…) and it seems likely that the same provisions will be used in multilateral instruments, including efforts at the World Trade Organization to establish similar e-commerce rules”.