USMCA Consequences – BMW Chief Says Considering Additional Auto Plant Operations in U.S…


The issue is basic to the construct of the USMCA (NAFTA replacement).

BMW made a multi-billion-dollar investment in Mexico in anticipation of exploiting the NAFTA loophole.  President Trump has closed the loophole.  The new USMCA agreement requires 75% of automobile parts made in North America; and 45% must come from plants with minimum labor costs ($16/hr), or face tariffs upon export to the U.S.

As a result BMW is now considering opening those higher-wage component supply operations in the U.S.

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – BMW (BMWG.DE) is considering a second U.S. manufacturing plant that could produce engines and transmissions, Chief Executive Harald Krueger said on Tuesday, shortly after a report that U.S. President Donald Trump would impose tariffs on imported cars from next week

[…] BMW is considering changes to U.S. operations as sales in the region grow, Krueger said. BMW has a U.S. vehicle assembly plant, in South Carolina, is planning to open a Mexico factory next year, and is considering changes to its current scheme of importing engines and transmissions.

“We’re at the range where you could think about a second location” in the United States, he said, adding that such a factory would provide a natural currency hedge. (more)

 

Oddly enough we predicted this likely move in August: […]  At the 30,000 ft level, the USMCA deal positions Mexico to retain their current multinational investments; and through a series of sector-by-sector standards on origination the deal simultaneously closes the fatal NAFTA loophole.  The agreement makes an economic manufacturing partnership between the U.S. and Mexico; and for assembly products third parties will have to produce parts and origination material within the U.S. and Mexico.

U.S.T.R. Lighthizer put some details forward:

♦The NAFTA Loophole closure is explained in Summary Form HERE; with emphasis on the Auto-Sector.  The key is a 75% part origination level for auto-assembly; and a 40-45% level for parts with a minimum $16/hr wage rate.  The source-origination rate (75%) is even higher than all previously forecast negotiation results.

Example of downstream consequences/benefits:  German auto-maker BMW recently built a $2 billion assembly plant in Mexico (almost complete).  Most of their core parts were coming from the EU (steel/aluminum casting components) and/or Asia (electronics).  Now the assembly plant will have to source 75% of the auto-parts from the U.S. and Mexico, with 45% of those parts from facilities paying $16/hr.  Result: BMW will need to modify their supply chain and build auto parts in the U.S. and Mexico.

(USMCA LINK to Article 32 pdf)

Prior to the USMCA both Canada and Mexico structured key parts of their independent trade agreements to take advantage of their unique access to the U.S. market.  Mexico and Canada generate billions in economic activity through exploiting the NAFTA loophole.  China, Asia (writ large), and the EU enter into trade agreements with Mexico and Canada as back-doors into the U.S. market.  So long as corporations can avoid U.S. tariffs by going through Canada and Mexico they would continue to exploit this approach.

The NAFTA loophole was/is a zero-sum issue: Either Can/Mex agree to give veto authority to the U.S. –OR– President Trump had no option to exit NAFTA completely. Well, Canada and Mexico agreed to the former, so there was no need for the latter.

 

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