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Fifty years ago in California, Jimi Hendrix poured lighter fluid on his Fender Stratocaster and, in a scene seared into music iconography, knelt and watched as the guitar -- from American rock 'n' roll's most cherished brand -- burned.

The truth is, however, that for about half of its 63-year existence, those guitars have to a large extent been manufactured in Mexico.

And as US, Mexican and Canadian officials open talks Wednesday in Washington on revamping the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, the Mexican-made Stratocaster stands as an example of how liberalized trade has encouraged seamless cross-border supply chains -- ones that may be almost impossible to undo.

Unlike major automakers benefitting from NAFTA, the half-billion-dollar US guitar industry does not employ hundreds of thousands of workers who ship billions in product.

Still, in common with the bigger manufacturers, guitar makers like Fender, CF Martin & Co and Taylor have turned to Mexico as a source of cheaper yet still skilled labor, and to take advantage of NAFTA's duty-free export to the United States.

- Trade vital to guitars -

The regional trade deal means they can compete with cheap imports from Asia.

"Trade is vital to guitar manufacturers and any US manufacturer that can get any of its manufacturing done internationally will benefit," Rory Masterson, an industry analyst at the research firm IBISWorld, told AFP.

The Stratocaster's sleek and ergonomic body gave an unmistakable silhouette to British and American bluesmen and rock heroes like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen, and created a market among wannabe rockers who tried to emulate them.

Since the US Congress ratified NAFTA in 1993, US imports of Mexican-made guitars valued at $100 or more have risen 90 percent, reaching $38 million last year, according to US government data.

Largely thanks to NAFTA, Mexico is now the third-largest source of US guitar imports after China and Indonesia, generating 21 percent of foreign-made guitars sold in the United States, according to Masterson.

Imports account for about a third of US demand, he said.

Like other companies, if the NAFTA renegotiation concludes with tougher rules of origin or new barriers for Mexican-made guitars, Fender would have to adjust.

"If there was a new tariff that came up, it wouldn't be unbelievable to see them close down that plant and move to a place to where they can trade more freely," Masterson said.

Fender Music Instruments Corporation, now the largest US guitar maker by market share, set up a Stratocaster plant in 1987 in the Baja California town of Ensenada, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) south of the US border, where Mexican workers produce a serviceable, workhorse version of the iconic guitar.

Guitarists say the US-made Stratocaster exhibits finer craftsmanship and produces a significantly better sound, but the Mexican version retails at about half the cost: around $600.

Fender's limited edition Jimi Hendrix Monterey Stratocaster, launched for the 50th anniversary of the Monterey music festival, will retail for $899.99.

- Tightly integrated supply chains -

From its start in 1954, the Stratocaster embodied designer Leo Fender's idea of an industrial instrument, easily mass-produced using interchangeable parts and contemporary manufacturing technology, said Alan di Perna, co-author of the electric guitar history "Play it Loud."

"That's why it lends itself to offshore manufacturing," he told AFP. "If your neck brakes, you can bolt a new one on in half an hour."

Under NAFTA rules, products that are substantially created within the region can enjoy duty-free movement throughout the three member countries, even if they contain parts made outside North America.

But Fender is privately held and declined to answer questions from AFP about its production and imports from Mexico.

Morris Cohen, a professor of manufacturing and logistics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, told AFP he toured a Mexican guitar factory with students on November 9, the day after President Donald Trump clinched the White House after campaigning against NAFTA.

"They were not that concerned," he said of the Fender workers.

Virtually every global manufacturer produces high-quality goods in Mexico, in factories using sophisticated techniques, he said.

"They've set up efficient mechanisms for integrating and coordinating these supply chains," Cohen said. "It would be very difficult to rip it apart."

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Elvis: 40 years since the death of ‘the King’

Elvis Presley, American icon and King of rock 'n' roll, transformed popular culture, sold over a billion records and is idolized as ever on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death.

His Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee -- the second most famous home in the United States after the White House -- expects more than 50,000 people to descend for the biggest ever annual celebration of his life 40 years after his death aged 42 on August 16, 1977.

Presley is considered the best selling artist of all time, shifting an estimated billion records. In 2016, Forbes ranked him fourth highest earning dead celebrity at $27 million, still moving a million albums.

"He is the only person of modern times who is instantly recognizable throughout the world by his first name," said British author and artist Ted Harrison, who has written two books about Presley.

"Say 'Elvis' in Beijing, Nicaragua, Estonia or Fiji and you get an immediate recognition across language and culture," he told AFP.

His unique voice and style blended R&B, blues, country, gospel and black music, challenging social and racial barriers at the time, and earning him the nickname "Elvis the Pelvis" for his gyrating moves.

Oozing style, charisma and naked sex appeal, he was the fantasy of millions of women and inspired everyone who came after him, from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones to today's chart-topper Bruno Mars.

"Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail," Bob Dylan has said.

In the late 1960s, the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein called him "the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

- 'Celebrity of all celebrities' -

Hits such as "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight" are instantly recognizable. His music has been reissued and repackaged countless times since his death.

More than 20 million people have visited Graceland, his home for 20 years, after Priscilla, his ex-wife and mother of his only child Lisa Marie, opened it to the public in 1982.

The estate says it pulls in 600,000 visitors a year and contributes around $150 million a year to the Memphis economy. Neither is it showing any sign of slowing down.

In March, it opened a brand-new $45 million entertainment complex and hotel spread across 40 acres.

Die-hard fans are often moved to tears at his gravesite at Graceland, where he is interred next to his beloved parents, Gladys and Vernon, and grandmother Minnie Mae, covered in flowers, tributes and mementos.

"It gives you that fire," said Stephanie Harris, 42, from Michigan who sells life insurance. "His music is transcendent to our generation because there's nothing like the 'Hound Dog' baby."

In downtown Memphis, home of the blues, you can buy everything Elvis -- from Christmas tree decorations to luggage. Cardboard Elvis cutouts greet you outside bars and his music blares out of loudspeakers.

"He's the celebrity of all celebrities," said Lisa Bseiso, 36, who set up The Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Qatar, the Middle Eastern kingdom where she was born and raised.

"Forty years after his death, that's why he's a phenomenon. He's still as powerful, as loving."

- Black music -

Born to a truck driver father and sewing-machine operator in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935, Presley grew up an only child after his brother was stillborn.

In 1948, he and his parents moved to Memphis, he graduated high school, cut his first record aged 19 and became an almost instant star.

As an early rebel whose hip-swiveling, pulsating leg-tapping had conservatives up in arms, his music also crossed the racial divide in a South where the specter of segregation still loomed large.

"Far more worrying to many white Americans was the way he took African-American music and presented it mainstream," says Harrison.

Then came a two-year stint in the US Army during the Cold War, he was shipped off to West Germany, promoted to sergeant and after leaving the military turned into a respectable family entertainer.

But if he embodied the American dream -- the poor boy made good who doted on his parents and liked to buy Cadillacs for strangers off the street on a whim -- he also personified American excess.

He became a total recluse, abusing a dizzying array of prescription pills, overate, becoming a bloated shadow of his once lithe self in declining health and plagued by poor management.

His last live performance was on June 25, 1977, in Indianapolis and on August 16, 1977, the day before his next scheduled concert, he was found dead in his bathroom.

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