As part of the consideration by the WTO's Committee on Regional Trade Agreements of the United States - Mexico - Canada Agreement (USMCA), China asked the USMCA parties about the functioning of the Non-Market Country FTA provision in Article 32.10. Article 32.10 imposes a number of requirements in relation to efforts by USMCA parties to negotiate an FTA with non-market countries. While no non-market countries are mentioned by name, the clear target of the provision was China.
At the WTO Committee, China asked a series of questions about this provision, as follows:
1.12. As mentioned in paragraph 5.35 of the factual presentation, "...Before commencing free trade agreement negotiations with a non-market country a Party must inform the other Parties of its intentions to do so and shall provide, upon request, as much information as possible about the objectives for such negotiations... If a Party enters into an FTA with a non-market country the other two Parties may terminate the Agreement on six months' notice..." Could the Parties clarify and explain what is the consideration of this provision? What is the relationship between "terminate the Agreement" referred in this provision and the Withdrawal procedure under Article 34.6? Will this provision be triggered if a Party intends to commence an RTA negotiation in which a "non-market country" is a Party? Is there any practice on this provision? Does it comply with Article XXIV of GATT and Article V of GATS?
The Parties' response did not address most of China's specific questions, but nevertheless offered some general explanations of the provision:
Article 32.10 (Non-Market Country FTA) of the USMCA/CUSMA/TMEC requires that any Party intending to negotiate a free trade agreement with a non-market country must inform the other Parties prior to commencing negotiations. That Party must also provide an opportunity for the other Parties to review the text before signing such an agreement. It also provides that entry into such an agreement by one Party allows for the other Parties to terminate the USMCA and replace it with an agreement as between those other Parties. This provision is intended to ensure that the negotiated benefits of the USMCA remain with the USMCA Parties and are not diluted by one Party's agreement with a non-market country. If a USMCA Party were to enter into such an agreement, the other Parties would review information and ensure that they are not disadvantaged.