Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Part Manufacturers’ Association, will be speaking at an industry luncheon event at The Arden Park Hotel in Stratford Jan. 28.

Galen Simmons, The Beacon Herald
January 20, 2020

Flavio Volpe couldn’t have been closer to the action during negotiations of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement over the past few years.

As president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association – Canada’s national association representing producers of parts, equipment, tools, supplies and services for the international automotive industry – Volpe had unfettered access to negotiations as they unfolded and to the people, organizations, and government officials forging the deal.

“Typically, what happens (in international trade deals) is governments negotiate in confidence and then they come bring you an update once in a while,” Volpe said. “That’s a real passive way of doing things. … This time, they said, ‘You’re invited to come to the negotiating rounds. We want your input – formal and informal’ and they essentially invited us to be as involved as we can.

“We took that more than literally. We were present for every negotiation round. We worked with the government before the rounds, during the rounds giving feedback in real time, and then after rounds in wrap-up and doing homework.”

Volpe and his association also met with White House staff, delegates from the United States Trade Representative, and former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and his minister of foreign affairs without Canadian government officials present to ensure the association’s membership received a fair shake in this new NAFTA.

“We tested methods and tactics that hadn’t been tried before and we were generally successful,” Volpe said.

On Jan. 28, Volpe will be in Stratford speaking at the NAFTA 2.0 luncheon – an event hosted by investStratford, Perth County, the Town of St. Marys, and the Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce – where he will share his experiences from the USMCA negotiations with representatives from the local auto-parts industry.

“People think that major agreements – local and international, and major commercial contracts – get negotiated by the people who put pen on the signature line,” he said. “But what we proved with the NAFTA-USMCA discussion is the bold dictate the terms and the bold redefine who the stakeholders are. And we did that, and I got coverage of our industry-based proposals and our counter proposals in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times … in places where we never had a voice, I think perhaps because we never tested it.”

Though, in many respects, Stratford is still a small town in a big world, Volpe said the city goes toe to toe with some of the biggest metropolitan centres on the planet when it comes to the automotive parts industry – one of the reasons he says he’s excited to share his insights from USMCA negotiations with a Stratford audience.

“We have a special relationship with Stratford,” Volpe said. “We learned early on, through our connected and autonomous car demonstration programs, that the city has a real commitment to advanced mobility and intelligent and smart cities. In different ways, we’ve gone around the world telling the Stratford story and being part of the Stratford story.

“So this is personally exciting for me to go into Stratford and talk about the stuff that we do.”

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