The International Trade Blog

Helen Mann

Helen Mann

Helen Mann is a Texas-based freelance writer primarily focused on logistics, the supply chain and international trade. She spent years writing about these topics for audiences ranging from CEOs to purchasing agents, including publications for TTX Company, the Intermodal Association of North America, and FTR Transportation Intelligence. This experience ingrained in her just how integral international trade is to economies on both sides of a border.

Helen holds a M.S. in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College. When she isn’t poring over the text of a free trade agreement, Helen can be found hanging out with her husband and their English bulldog.

Articles Written By Helen Mann

U.S. Trade Hits Record Levels Amid Supply Chain Woes and Global Uncertainty

2021 could have been known as the year of continued uncertainty. The combination of an ongoing pandemic, erratic economic conditions and lingering global tensions worked in concert to create a roller-coaster environment for international trade. In the United States, inflation climbed, the supply chain was stretched thin and scores of workers quit their jobs.

In spite of this, U.S. imports and exports were higher than ever. Now, policy makers in the United States must figure out how to manage an influx of commerce while keeping the domestic economy from overheating and navigating international relations.

What exactly happened in 2021?

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USMCA: One Year Later

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) went into effect just over one year ago, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and promising to increase North American trade. NAFTA created a solid foundation for trade liberalization. It reduced most tariffs to zero, subsequently bringing trade levels up by $1 trillion. Now its successor updates and tweaks several of its provisions. 

In honor of the USMCA’s first birthday, we thought we’d look at how implementation has gone. What, if anything, has changed over the past year?

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31 Interesting Facts About International Trade

What a year and a half we’ve had. 2020 kicked off with the coronavirus spreading around the world, and concluded with a peak season that put all other peak seasons to shame. Global GDP slowed down by 4-5%, depending on who you ask. Supply chains had just enough time to fall apart before having to ramp up to meet e-commerce and vaccine distribution demands (at the same time, of course).

Not that 2021 hasn’t come with its share of excitement. Nearly halfway into the year, shippers are still dealing with the fallout from a week-long obstruction in the Suez Canal while imports continue to pile up on both coasts. 

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International Trade and COVID-19: Where We've Been, Where We're Headed

To say that 2020 didn’t turn out as expected would be an exercise in understatement. A combination of global economic disaster and trade-hampering policies marked the year. The coronavirus ripped through supply chains, disrupting economies worldwide. Trade wars raged. Policy changes kept importers and exporters in the United States on their toes. As the U.S. (and indeed, the world) struggles to overcome last year’s challenges, exporters have their own set of obstacles to grapple with.

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From Protectionism to USMCA: A History of U.S. Trade

Importers and exporters know that trade has become part of the lifeblood of the American economy.

The numbers are astounding: 39 million jobs—including 6 million manufacturing positions—depend on trade, according to a 2019 study by Trade Partnership Worldwide. In 2018, American farmers exported $139.6 billion worth of agricultural products. And small- and medium-sized businesses make up 98% of U.S. exporters.

This is largely owing to the buildup of trade relationships with other countries. The United States is currently working on its 15th free trade agreement with its 21st trading partner, and it's hard to imagine a world without these partnerships. But less than a century ago, the landscape looked completely different.

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USMCA Aims to Help Workers with New Labor Provision; Importers Should Ensure Their Vendors Comply

If your company is importing goods duty free from Mexico thanks to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), you need to ensure your vendors are following Mexican labor laws or you could find yourself staring at a big bill for overdue duties.

The USMCA went into effect on July 1, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA ushered in a new era for North American trade, and the USMCA looks to build on that momentum, mostly keeping NAFTA’s tariff structure, while addressing aspects of the economy that weren’t big priorities in 1994, like e-commerce and digital trade.

Some of the updates in the new agreement got a lot of media play, like new rules of origin requirements and the sunset clause. There’s another important change, though, that’s less talked about: the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism. It may have garnered less attention than some of the other policies, but it matters just as much to importers and exporters.

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Here's What's New in the USMCA

On July 1, 2020, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, expired, and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) took its place. NAFTA had a good run. It went into effect in 1994 and created the world’s largest free trade zone between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The goal of NAFTA was to bolster trade by reducing or eliminating most trade barriers (primarily in the form of tariffs), which it did. Between 1993 and 2017, trade between the three countries rose from $290 billion to more than $1.3 trillion.

Now, the USMCA takes its place. The new agreement modernizes NAFTA and addresses topics that were less relevant in 1994, such as e-commerce and the flow of international data.

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