Tag Archives: Food & Beverage

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America may need to rethink how it handles recycling

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Years of educational programs and campaigns to drive awareness about recycling in the U.S. may be headed for the trash. As it turns out, the waste produced by consumption is overwhelming to the point that recycled materials no longer have a marketplace.

According to The Atlantic, much of the recycled material is ending up in the trash.

Where was the recycled trash going? China. Tons and tons of it were sent over on ships, with the materials remade into shoes and bags and new plastic products. But that’s changed.

The country recently restricted imports of some recyclables, including mixed paper — magazines, office paper, junk mail — and most plastics.

China had been the world’s largest consumer of scrap, increasing its imports tenfold from 4.5 million tons in 1995 to 45 million in 2016. About a third of all recycled materials collected in the United States are exported, with 40 percent to China.

China’s “National Sword” policy, enacted in January 2018, banned the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation’s recycling processors. The move was an effort to halt a deluge of soiled and contaminated materials that were overwhelming Chinese processing facilities and leaving the country with yet another environmental problem — and this one not of its own making.

“Globally more plastics are now ending up in landfills, incinerators, or likely littering the environment as rising costs to haul away recyclable materials increasingly render the practice unprofitable. In England, more than half-a-million more tons of plastics and other household garbage were burned last year. Australia’s recycling industry is facing a crisis as the country struggles to handle the 1.3 million-ton stockpile of recyclable waste it had previously shipped to China,” Wired recently reported.

Because of China’s revamped recycling policies, what previously ended up getting re-purposed into useful goods is now getting turned into fire and smoke. The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes.

In the U.S. between 2000 and 2016, the solid waste industry generated around $60 billion in revenue. Waste Management, one of the biggest waste and environmental services companies in the world,generated revenue in fiscal year 2018 of around $14.9 billion.Despite these figures, some waste management companies across the country are telling towns, cities and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling or throw it all away.

For example, Franklin, New Hampshire, has operated a program since 2010. When the program launched, Franklin could break even on recycling by selling it for $6 a ton. Now, the town is being charged $125 a ton to recycle or $68 a ton to incinerate. So, the town is burning the waste.

According to The Atlantic, Broadway, Virginia, had a recycling program for 22 years but suspended it, too, after Waste Management told the town that prices would increase by 63 percent. Blaine County, Idaho, stopped collecting recycling and took the 35 bales of the waste meant for overseas to a landfill. The nonprofit Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful has collected more than 400,000 tons of plastic but is keeping it behind its facility where it collects plastic. It’s hoping the market changes, so it can move it.

More waste, fewer options

All of this is taking place after Americans generated 262.4 million tons of waste in 2015. This was up 4.5 percent from 2010 and 60 percent from 1985.

So, what to do? Part of the current recycling epidemic is that even with the China market cratering, much of what ends up the bins is contaminated, according to the National Waste & Recycling Association. “For decades, we’ve been throwing just about whatever we wanted — wire hangers and pizza boxes and ketchup bottles and yogurt containers — into the bin and sending it to China, where low-paid workers sorted through it and cleaned it up. That’s no longer an option. And in the United States, at least, it rarely makes sense to employ people to sort through our recycling so that it can be made into new material, because virgin plastics and paper are still cheaper in comparison.”

Cleaning up recycling requires employees — people to slowly go through materials, which is expensive. According to The Atlantic, Americans tend to be “aspirational” about their recycling, “tossing an item in the blue bin because it makes them feel less guilty about consuming it and throwing it away.”

Waste items that get tossed aside include soy-sauce packets, pizza boxes, candy-bar wrappers and dry-cleaner bags, to-go coffee cups lids and plastic take-out containers.

Until this changes, the recycling industry is in for a rude awakening. Selling the waste here is hard and that will have a major impact on recycling efforts in communities throughout the country. Couple that fact with the fact that virgin materials are often cheaper to use than recycled materials, the prognosis is that much worse for an industry that’s taken decades to build into a major force. Much of that might disappear as quickly as it took for China to shut down a global industry.

There might be another way to fix recycling: convince people to buy less stuff. That’s not likely to happen. Consumer spending in the U.S. accounts for 68 percent of the GDP. It won’t be a problem solved easily.

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After jumping into grocery game with Whole Foods, Amazon to debut new chain

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Amazon has been known to stir things up, and 2019 seems to be no different. Many blame the e-tail giant for the demise of brick-and-mortar stores, and they do have a hand in it. But the fact of the matter is that this demise was probably bound to happen in our internet-driven world. Amazon simply had the foresight to act first, and thus garner market share.

Once it shook up the online retail world, it was of course time to do something different. Hence the acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017, a move that was diametrically opposite to closing physical stores and going online.

Then came Amazon Go stores, with their grab-and-go, no cashiers or checkout lines concept. Now, Amazon has just announced the launch of a new chain of grocery stores in the U.S. that will be a separate entity from Whole Foods.

The inaugural location will be in Los Angeles, set to start operations later this year. With upcoming stores planned in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., it seems that Amazon is deeply invested in the grocery store business. As to be expected, shares of grocery giants like Costco, Kroger, and Walmart among others all dipped upon the news breaking.

Amazon is looking to redesign the traditional layout of grocery stores and may also acquire local or regional chains to set up its set of supermarkets across the U.S. Looking at the initial plans for the new store, it seems that the concept’s target market falls right in the middle between Whole Foods and Amazon Go.

The industry is abuzz with the news, which has caused increased speculation about the fate of Whole Foods. The upscale grocery chain may not be affected by this move since the new stores will not be direct competition. However, one cannot help but speculate on the overall business philosophy.

At a time when other grocery chains are upping their online offerings and deliveries, this move comes as a big disruptor.

Amazon is unbeatable when it comes to online delivery. The influx of pickup and delivery points will help meet increasing and varied customer demands. It will also help the company gain data about shoppers and fine-tune upcoming launches as it gears up to introduce an expanded lineup of food and personal care products.

In another move, Amazon announced that it would shut down all of its pop-up kiosks in the U.S. that have been operating since 2014, along with all 87 mini-stores. Located inside malls, Kohl’s and Whole Foods stores, these kiosks have been selling Amazon devices like Kindles, tablets, and Echos.

The change in retail strategy will shift the business from these small kiosks to the larger, physical stores and absorb them into broader product offerings. The company feels that this move will help it offer a more comprehensive customer experience.

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Who makes the first offer?

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When it comes to commercial leasing, who makes the first offer on a property for lease? The answer might surprise you!

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Eating healthy for National Nutrition Month

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Obviously, every single person is aware of nutrition because food is a staple for survival. However, it can be hard to know what is healthy and what isn’t. March is National Nutrition Month, a tradition started by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with National Nutrition Week in 1973. However, it wasn’t until 1980 that interest peaked, and it went from one week a year to one month a year.

Eating healthy is hard and eating poorly is easy. It starts innocently enough — a co-worker brings donuts to work, you work through lunch, so you grab something from the vending machine. It’s all downhill from there.

You put in long hours at work, the kids have extra homework and you are all tired. It is very easy to hit a fast-food drive-thru; throw back some nuggets and a coke and you’re set.

Some small planning can change all that. A slow cooker is my best friend. For example, I toss in an English roast, a few baby red potatoes, some vegetables and beef broth, and set it on high for 8 hours. Then, you have a nutritious meal waiting for you after work and school.

You can pre-plan your meals a week at a time. I love fresh fruit, so I leave a basket of bananas and apples on the dinner table. This lets you pack something healthy for work and school.

If you love soda (and all its sugar), like I do, a little trick I learned was to freeze soda into cubes and add a “pop” cube to my water until I was able to completely stop drinking soda.

You can take National Nutrition Month even further by trading one bad food for a good food. For example, if you normally take chips to work, trade your chips for carrot and celery sticks.

If that seems too hard, try it every other day. Another suggestion is to cook together as a family. Pick one night a week and plan a meal together. If you include everyone in the decision-making, the more likely everyone will be to eat healthier. Tackling these issues is easier if you have support and work as a team.

Another thing you can do for National Nutrition Month is to take a nutrition class. If you can’t afford one or locate one locally, there is plenty of information online.

Many times, those who are less fortunate don’t have the financial means to eat healthy, so another way to get involved is to donate to your local food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. You can help those who might never get healthy foods.

You could also host a healthy potluck at work. Ask everyone to bring in their favorite healthy dish and have them place a notecard with the dish listing the ingredients. You can add some fun to the event by having a favorite dish award; vote anonymously, tally the votes, and the winner receives a gift card for a local health store.

If you’re even more ambitious, you can take flyers to work, to your local stores and to your local gym. A faster way to get the word out is to promote National Nutrition Month on all your social media accounts. Finally, stay active; march into spring and spring into March.

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How to spend a weekend in Austin, Texas

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Known far and wide for live music and keeping it weird, Austin, Texas, makes a perfect destination for a weekend getaway. You might assume the best time to visit is during one of Austin’s famous annual music festivals. But the city has so much to offer its visitors year-round.

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Analysis: Standard work arrangements surprisingly dominate labor force since 2005

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Beware of talk that we are living through the rise of nonstandard employment. We turn to a new analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Economic Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C.

“In 2017, the total share of the labor force working in nonstandard arrangements was 10.1 percent, down from 10.9 percent in 2005,” according to Eileen Appelbaum, Arne Kalleberg and Hye Jin Rho.

Accordingly, the fraction of workers in standard work arrangements was 89.9 percent in 2017, roughly the same as 1995. This period includes the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

“Nonstandard or alternative employment relations refer to employment by a temporary help agency or contract company or as an on-call worker or day laborer,” according to the three analysts. “We refer to these nonstandard employment relations (which involve an employer and employee) and independent contracting collectively as nonstandard or alternative work arrangements in this report.”

One prominent part of that is the so-called gig-economy, which customers access via apps and websites. Gig workers are independent contractors, providing services such as ridesharing to customers.

“Uber and Lyft are very visible and are about four percent of people in their industry, but gig workers are a much smaller share of other industries,” CEPR co-director Eileen Appelbaum told MultiBriefs in an email interview.

To sum up, about 1 percent of the American labor force toils in nonstandard work arrangements. JPMorgan Chase Institute data uses different methodology from BLS but comes to the same conclusion as the EPI and CEPR analysts.

Demographically, who is more likely to labor in nonstandard arrangements? Spoiler alert: think grey hair.

“Older workers are more likely to be independent contractors than any other age group in both 2005 and 2017,” according to the EPI and CEPR analysts. “However, the share of all older workers who are independent contractors declined from 10.8 percent of those ages 55–64 and 18.3 percent of those ages 65+ in 2005, to 9.3 percent and 16.2 percent, respectively, in 2017.”

Independent contractors file a 1099 Internal Revenue Service tax form, and pay the employer and employee share of Social Security. Just under 22 percent of gig economy workers labor in transportation and utilities.

Further, the median earnings of these older workers were the highest compared with other age groups of younger workers in 2005 and 2017. Apparently, experience matters while working for pay.

Workers in standard employment relations earned the highest median weekly earnings in 2017.

What is the purpose of the EPI and CEPR analysis? “Nonstandard employment relations — that is, temporary help agency and contract company employment,” according to Appelbaum, Kalleberg and Rho, “and employment as an on-call worker or day laborer — as well as independent contracting have become increasingly prominent in both theoretical and policy thinking about how employment has changed in recent years in the United States and other postindustrial countries.” That is not all.

On the legal front, a 2018 California Supreme Court decision, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, changes how employers classify workers as independent contractors. There are related bills moving forward in the California Legislature in 2019.

How does the future of gig work shape up? “Despite the ubiquity of Uber and Lyft drivers in our major cities, the gig economy does not currently hold the key to the future of work,” Applebaum said in a statement. If the past two decades offer a map to tomorrow, 9-in-10 U.S. workers will remain in standard employment.

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Negotiating commercial leases: Reduce your square footage

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For many commercial tenants, negotiating a good lease or lease renewal against an experienced agent or landlord can be a challenge. While an entrepreneur focuses on marketing and managing his own business, savvy real estate agents and brokers are specialized sales people. Their job is to sell tenants on leasing their location at the highest possible rental rate.

Tenants may go through the leasing process only two or three times in their entire lifetime — yet they have to negotiate against seasoned professionals who negotiate leases every day for a living. Negotiating appropriate leasing terms is vital for a commercial tenant as the amount of rent he or she pays will directly affect the entrepreneur’s financial bottom line.

Whether you are leasing a new for the first time or negotiating a lease renewal for your business, here are some tips:

Reduce your square footage

Many entrepreneurs who hire The Lease Coach to negotiate a rent reduction for them are suffering from leasing too many square feet. For some tenants, a reduction in their leased area now or renewal time will solve their problem.

Alternatively, moving at renewal time can also help. With a proper commercial space plan, some tenants could reduce their area by 10 to 30 percent with minimal inconvenience. This reduction in gross rent could justify the process.

Take your fixtures with you

There’s a saying in this industry, if it’s glued, screwed or nailed down, you can’t take it with you. Many entrepreneurs are shocked to discover that their leasehold improvements — for example, expensive counters, light fixtures, and even certain types of signage — must be left behind.

There’s usually a financial benefit to removing your fixtures. Also, consider that your competition may move into the premises and benefit by using everything that you left behind.

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Adaptogens: Plants that combat stress

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In an age where Western healthcare costs are rising — and drug resistance is a serious problem, more people turning to natural remedies to aid in their health.

The adrenal glands produce various hormones and steroids that regulate blood pressure, metabolism, sexual response, the immune system, and how the body reacts to stress. The adrenals themselves are especially susceptible to stress and can eventually drive the body (the system) to adrenal fatigue.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue often mirror symptoms of many chronic illnesses:

  • Blood sugar problems
  • Brain Fog
  • GI track issues
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep issues
  • Continual infections
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Joint pain
  • High cholesterol
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight issues

For thousands of years, people have used certain plants to combat illnesses and stress as a part of their traditional medicines. These include adaptogens, a class of plants that have amazing abilities to adapt to tough conditions and stresses in the environment; they can also help human bodies adapt to certain stressors in the body, leading to more robust health.

Adaptogens support the entire endocrine system, especially the adrenal functions of the body.

To be classified as an adaptogen, the plant must:

  1. Be non-toxic to the human body.
  2. Be able to equilibrate the body’s functions, not just add or decrease a function.
  3. Influence multiple processes in the body.

When added to your daily diet, adaptogens can improve your overall well-being. These can be in the form of a tincture, a tea, dried herb capsules, or even the actual plant. Below are some common adaptogens and the conditions they can improve:

  • Ginseng: Fatigue
  • Maca: Fatigue and immunity
  • Ashwagandha: Stress, hormone imbalance, thyroid function, immunity, anxiety, and depression
  • Holy basil (tulsi): Brain fog
  • Rhodiola rosea: Stress and adrenal fatigue
  • Schisandra: Adrenal fatigue
  • Astragalus: Immunity
  • Licorice: Stress, adrenal fatigue, balancing cortisol levels, and digestive issues
  • Moringa: Fatigue, stress, immunity, and helps thyroid function
  • Gotu kola: Brain function, stress, anxiety, and better circulation
  • Cordyceps: Adrenal fatigue, energy levels in general, stress, balancing hormone levels, and even good for skin and hair

Not all adaptogens work for everyone. Not knowing which ones can help you can make a dent in your wallet because adaptogens can be pricey. Read up on adaptogens and your issue and check in with your healthcare provider to make sure there are no harmful interactions with any medications you are taking.

If you are pregnant or nursing, check with your doctor first. Something as simple as licorice can be harmful to pregnant women or those with elevated blood pressure.

Before you invest hundreds of dollars in unique blends; pick up a simple tincture or capsules of the dried plant at the local co-op or store that carries a range of traditional medicines. I am trying this with ashwagandha for my hypothyroidism. I pay close attention to how my body responds, have regular blood tests, and stay in good communication with my endocrinologist, so she knows what I am doing.

If you decide to take an adaptogen, pay attention to how your body responds. What works for one person may not work for another. There are always foods to avoid for some people — same with adaptogens.

Finding the right adaptogens to add to our diets can improve our overall health, and keep us moving and hopefully out of the doctor’s office.

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Exploring the pegan diet: The next big thing in food trends

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Trend spotters are projecting that the “pegan” diet will become popular in 2019. A combination of paleo and vegan diets, searches for the pegan diet rose 337 percent on Pinterest in recent months. People looking to inculcate healthier eating habits may opt for this diet that promotes gut health.

The term was introduced by Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and a New York Times best-selling author, when he detailed his own diet, a mashup of paleo and vegan diets. The combination works because both diets focus on eating fresh and organic produce.

A vegan diet is devoid of all animal products or byproducts, like eggs, meat, cheese, yogurt or even gelatin. A paleo diet tries to follow the diet patterns of Paleolithic-era humans. So, dieters eat unprocessed foods consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and grass-fed meats like they did 2.5 million years ago.

While there are some differences between the two diets, both advocate eating whole foods and plants.

One of the key reasons for the rising popularity of the pegan diet is that it allows dieters to eat meat and fish sparingly. While most of the diet, 75 percent, consists of plant-based food, it balances out the cravings for meats.

A strict, meat-free diet is not always a feasible solution for many, but with the pegan diet, they can continue eating healthy. Eating grass-fed and sustainably raised meat and controlling portions will help. Hyman suggests an easy way to do this — eat meat as a side dish, not the main course.

Those who find it hard to give up dairy products can opt for sheep- or goat-based dairy products, which are easier to digest. Dieters should also focus on healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, coconut oil and saturated fats from organic meat products. Sugar needs to be avoided as much as possible.

With millennials looking to eat in and focus on home cooking, healthy eating is no longer a fad but a way of life. The typical American meat and potatoes diet has led to a slew of health problems for many and people have woken up to its dangers.

Eating the pegan way is a great way to transition into a healthier lifestyle. It helps to lose weight and sustain that loss, improve skin health, energy and overall health.

Detractors, however, call it too restrictive, which might not be healthy for the mind or the body. Many have been left feeling too hungry, lacking in energy and even suffering from low blood pressure and headaches.

It works better for paleo dieters and not so much for the vegans who can’t eat meat. Since the diet does not include legumes, where many vegans get their proteins from, their food intake remains incomplete.

Experts such as these feel that the pegan diet may work better when people are transitioning to a healthier, plant-based lifestyle but should not be continued long term.

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What dairy pros need to know about the USMCA

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The wait is (kind of) over. Trade authorities in the U.S., Mexico and Canada have agreed to a trilateral free trade agreement that replaces NAFTA.

The finer points of automotive manufacturing earned most of the headlines during the protracted negotiation period, but dairy trade was another key sticking point. Here, we hope to offer some details and context to provide a clearer picture of how things will look once the deal is effective.

Or, more like if. The deal first must survive legislative review in three separate national capitals. As we discuss later, when it comes to lawmakers and politics, nothing is a done deal until it’s a done deal.

Opening Canadian markets

USMCA increases the duty-free volume of a wide range of American products allowed in Canada. According to data released by the USDA, access is granted to:

  • 50,000 metric tons (MT) of additional fluid milk.
  • 12,500 MT of additional cheese.
  • 10,500 MT of additional cream.
  • 7,500 MT of additional skim milk powder.
  • 4,500 MT of additional butter and cream powder.
  • 1,380 MT of additional concentrated and condensed milk.
  • 4,135 MT of additional yogurt and buttermilk.
  • 520 MT of additional powdered buttermilk.
  • 2,760 MT of additional products of natural milk constituents.
  • 690 MT of additional ice cream and ice cream mixes.
  • 690 MT of additional other dairy.
  • 4,134 MT of additional whey (by year 10, the over quota tariff on whey will be eliminated).
  • Tariffs on margarine are eliminated after five years.

The agreement creates a six-year ramp up to reach the levels listed above; smaller increases then kick in each year afterward for 13 years.

The Canadian dairy lobby isn’t happy about this. Stakeholders have lobbed stinging critiques at the government with phrases like “Death by a thousand cuts” and comparing the terms of the agreement to a slow bleed.

An Ontario dairy farmer minced no words in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “We’re a sixth-generation dairy farm, and we’re probably not going to survive this, so I guess it just sucks to be us,” she said.

It’s grim language, and it’s about what you’d expect to hear from an industry newly bound by freer markets after decades of protectionism.

But just because the agreement allows U.S. producers to sell (marginally) more product into Canada, it doesn’t mean Canadian buyers must buy it. And even if U.S. producers supply Canadian buyers at the full volume allowed under USMCA, it still only amounts to something like one extra truckload of milk a day.

And for Canadian dairy farmers, any business they lose as a result of the deal would likely be covered by compensation as promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Elimination of Canada’s Class 6 & 7

The thorniest issue with the U.S. and Canada’s dairy trade relationship was the creation of new Canadian milk classes for ultrafiltered milk. Prior to the introduction of the classes, plants in southern Canada relied on milk collected from Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and other northern states.

The new formulas priced Canadian milk below the world market price. Canadian processors logically switched to buying cheaper domestic product. The result was a sudden loss of business for dairy farmers in regions of the U.S. already plagued by an oversupply of milk.

The elimination of Canada’s Class 6 and Class 7 theoretically means the playing field is once again evened. We’ll see if that happens in practice. The new trade deal doesn’t account for the possibility that Canada may attempt to restrict its markets in some other way.

Preserving our relationship with Mexico

As it pertains to dairy trade between the U.S. and Mexico, USMCA and the NAFTA it replaces are functionally identical. That’s a good thing, for the most part, because U.S. dairy exports to Mexico are worth $1.2 billion annually. It’s by far the most lucrative dairy trading relationship we have.

Canada, our second most valuable dairy trading partner, accounts for a little over half that value.

Even though duty-free dairy trade between Mexico and the U.S. is enshrined in the new trade deal, the U.S. needs to end its tariffs on steel and aluminum before Mexico agrees to end its retaliation so that the normal dairy trading relationship can resume.

It’s unclear if the language of the steel and aluminum tariffs permits the U.S. to selectively enforce them or if rolling them back on Mexico can only occur if they’re rolled back for everyone else, too.

What happens next?

Since all heads of state have signed the agreement, it’s up to the national legislatures. According to this ratification timeline, it’s not likely that lawmakers in Mexico or Canada will upend the deal. That’s because Mexican law appears not to allow the Congress to change the text of the agreement — they just get to review it before taking an up-or-down vote. In Canada, Parliament will debate and vote on the deal, but those votes appear not to be legally binding. That power is left up to Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet.

Things are a lot trickier in the U.S.

Starting Dec. 1, Congress had 105 days to identify changes in federal law that must be made to accommodate the provisions of the USMCA and then write an implementation bill. Because both the Senate and House will write their own version of the bill, each chamber would then have 45 days to reconcile the two versions. An agreed bill will then be sent to President Trump.

Problem is, the implementation bill that emerges from the process may not be as much to Trump’s liking since it will be the result of a compromise between a newly-split Congress. Democrats assumed control of the House of Representatives Jan. 3.

Worst-case scenario is that Congress won’t agree and the USMCA will not go into effect at all. If that happens, we fall back on NAFTA, which has no expiration date.

Clearly, there’s a lot still up in the air.

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