Cross-border trade among the U.S., Mexico and Canada is increasing, but President Obama is likely to hear complaints about U.S. trade barriers when he meets his Mexican and Canadian counterparts Feb. 19.
The Keystone XL oil pipeline and Mexican trucking are among the thorny issues likely to complicate talks between Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Canada wants a decision from Obama on whether to permit the extension of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to deliver oil from Western Canada’s tar sands oil fields to U.S. refineries in Louisiana and Texas.
Obama has refused to say whether he will eventually approve or reject the controversial pipeline until an ongoing regulatory review is complete, a date that seems a long way off.
In Mexico, the national trucking association Canacar is reportedly pressing a lawsuit against the U.S. for allegedly violating the trucking provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement since 1994.
The association, which filed a claim for arbitration against the U.S. in 2009, has raised its damage claim to $30 billion, according to the Mexico Trucker Online newsletter and Fox News Latino.
The U.S. wants to focus on strengthening economic ties among the trading partners. The economies of the U.S., Canada and Mexico are becoming increasingly integrated as the value of NAFTA trade rises.
Total U.S. trade with Mexico was on pace to exceed $600 billion for the first time on an annual basis in 2013, up more than fivefold from $81 billion in 1993, the last full year before NAFTA took effect.
U.S. imports and exports with Canada have increased a more moderate three times, from approximately $210 billion in 1993 to some $630 billion in 2013. Canada is the largest U.S. trading partner.
Trade among the three countries will continue to grow as the U.S. economy rallies, but the debate over the Keystone pipeline and Mexican trucking could complicate new initiatives under NAFTA.