Get ready for anything trade lawyer tells business community on NAFTA

OTTAWA — Growing uncertainty over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement means companies need to brace themselves, including for the possibility that President Donald Trump walks away from a deal, a trade lawyer is warning the business community.“The first step is for companies to understand this is very real and that they need to start contingency planning,” said Dan Ujczo, an international trade lawyer specializing in Canada-U.S. matters.On the campaign trail last year, candidate Trump vowed to rip up NAFTA — the 23-year-old trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico — if he could not renegotiate a better deal.His recent reiterations of that threat, along with demands Canada and Mexico consider impossible, have forced everyone to take it more seriously.It remains to be seen whether Trump will in fact attempt to withdraw, how U.S. Congress would react, whether Mexico and Canada would still keep talking and what that would end up meaning, in real terms, for cross-border trade between the three countries.The U.S. business and agriculture community has been ramping up its efforts to convince Congress, which could use its legislative powers to make it harder for Trump to exit the agreement, that they are not on board with abandoning the deal.That outreach is important, Ujczo told businesses during an online presentation Friday, but it is also not too early to get ready for any outcome.There are some practical matters to consider, such as taking a look at the supply chain to determine how exposed a business would become if some of the tougher proposals, such as stricter rules of origin for the materials used in auto manufacturing, come to pass.That should include examining checking certificates of origin and maintaining scrupulous records, because both client companies and customs officials are likely to start applying greater scrutiny as they also get ready for the new way of doing things.“It’s time to really buckle down and take a look at that, because these proposals are going to heighten awareness throughout the supply chain and at the borders,” Ujczo, who is with the cross-border firm Dickinson Wright, in Columbus, Ohio, said during the presentation.The lawyer also had advice for companies thinking about outsourcing to Asia as a way to minimize the fallout from the NAFTA renegotiations.“Keep in mind NAFTA is not the only thing the Trump administration is doing. It’s targeting Asia,” said Ujczo, who noted the U.S. has been ramping up its trade enforcement activities all around the world. “The only way the Trump trade strategy works is as a one-two punch: tightening up North America, while also targeting goods coming in from overseas.”That raises the question of whether Canadian companies should think about packing up and moving south.Ujczo said that would not be the case for everyone, but if they have U.S. customers, it makes financial sense and the company was already thinking about moving there someday, it might not be a bad idea to speed up those plans.“It has to have some business rationale,” he said in an interview. “I would never recommend just setting up shop in the U.S. if you don’t have any other business going on there,” he said, but if it was already on the horizon: “It would accelerate that life cycle.”Brenda Swick, a Toronto-based international trade lawyer with Dickinson Wright who joined the presentation, was more cautious.“I think they should stay put where they are right now, but they should be looking at plan B,” she said in an interview.Swick said those back-up plans should include figuring out how a company would be effected if there was a new NAFTA, a bilateral agreement between Canada and the U.S., or no free trade agreement between the two countries at all.— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter read more

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Mens basketball Amid another rough season Mattas job seems safe

OSU coach Thad Matta speaks to the Buckeyes during a timeout in OSU’s exhibition match-up against Walsh on Nov. 6. The Buckeyes won 85-67. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorThe Ohio State men’s basketball team escaped Wednesday night with a win against Rutgers, but not without some scary moments for Thad Matta’s team. The Buckeyes had to fight to the bitter end, barely scraping by a team that had just earned its first road conference win in 24 games.Follow that up with a loss to No. 21 Maryland away from home — which was less shocking — and OSU once again looks to be on a downtrend. The Buckeyes still lack a prolific scorer, and have been unable to find any cohesiveness 25 games into the season. This isn’t the first time he has struggled to find a way to win.“I was 10–9 at Xavier, and four weeks later, we were playing in the Elite Eight to go to the Final Four (in 2003),” Matta said earlier this season. “Just keep fighting, man. Just keep fighting.”Last season, the Scarlet and Gray were scrutinized for performing well below expectations, but were expected to be at least marginally better this season. OSU has just five games remaining in the regular season to try to finish above .500 in the conference and overall.And with teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State remaining, the odds of that happening are about as likely as Matta not chewing gum on the sideline. With the daunting task of trying to revive a team with little to fight for, the job security of the long-time OSU coach could come into question.Matta, who now has a career record of 437-150 after the win against Rutgers and loss to Maryland, is the winningest coach in OSU history. With 335 wins under his belt at the helm of the Buckeyes, it seems strange to think his job could be in jeopardy.Matta has missed the Big Ten Championship game in three consecutive years, and is in real jeopardy of missing it for a fourth time, barring any shocking upsets. With four seasons of less-than-stellar play, Matta’s time at the helm could be coming to an end.On the other side of the argument, Matta is in his 13th season with the Buckeyes, and has never posted a losing season in his career. Never in his entire head coaching career has he missed the 20-win mark.Although OSU looks like it will miss out on at least 20 wins, unless the team has a solid National Invitational Tournament run. Well, if they make it there, that is.Matta has made it to at least the NIT every year with the Buckeyes, except for his first year at the helm. Four conference titles and four Sweet 16 appearances, paired with a solid incoming recruiting class, might just be enough to keep Matta around. OSU currently has commitments from center Kaleb Wesson — brother of OSU freshman forward Andre Wesson — and point guard Braxton Beverly. Both players are listed as four-stars according to ESPN.In 2018, there is even more reason to celebrate, as OSU is set to haul in a pair of forwards in Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens, and a solid shooting guard in Dane Goodwin. Matta’s incoming players could potentially bring him some success again, but only time will tell.Regardless of where fans stand on Matta, they should remember how many wins he has brought the program, and the not-so-long-ago past appearances in the NCAA tournament. That, paired with some praise from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, should give him at least one more chance.“I shouldn’t say this, but hell, I’m happy for him,” Izzo said in January. “From the standpoint of the way people treat him around here, I’m happy for him. He’s won a lot of games here … He doesn’t have to answer to anybody and he probably doesn’t need my support, but I’ll probably need his.” read more

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