President Donald Trump has officially alerted Congress that he will begin NAFTA renegotiation talks. This gives Trump’s administration, Congress, and businesses a 90 day consultation period before he sits down with Canada and Mexico. From Fox Business:
“Today, President Trump is fulfilling one of his key promises to the American people,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters on Thursday.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Mr. Lighthizer said the administration will start talks with Canada and Mexico as soon as 90 days from Thursday, in line with congressional rules on negotiating trade deals subject to expedited consideration by lawmakers.
Lighthizer stated in his letter to Congress that the administration promises to work “closely and transparently” with those in Congress during the 90 day period. He also told Congress that “the administration’s primary goal in renegotiating the more than 23-year-old agreement will be to update it, including by adding provisions on digital trade, intellectual property rights and labor and environmental standards.”
He also noted that “Canada and Mexico have only limited room to make deep concessions to Washington, given their own domestic political situations.” Fox Business continued:
“Sectors such as manufacturing, particularly with regard to Mexico, have fallen behind, he said.
“Nafta was negotiated 25 years ago, and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, Nafta has not,” Mr. Lighthizer wrote in the letter. “For example, digital trade was in its infancy when Nafta was enacted.”
However, Lighthizer may face pushback from businesses because the community “has argued that the pact has done a lot to sustain some U.S. factories by creating more efficient continental supply chains that allowed U.S. firms to better compete globally.”
The letter from Lighthizer did not mention any specifics, though. The administration did send a draft to Congress in March “that included what the administration was looking for in nearly 20 different areas.” There’s no telling which parts the administration will keep its focus on those points in those areas.
The Business Roundtable, an association of large American companies, released its own goals:
“The planned negotiations should not weaken or undermine Nafta given its many benefits for the United States,” the letter said. “We think it is very important to…not disrupt supply chains that have been built up and greatly benefit U.S. businesses, workers and consumers over the last two decades.”
Mexico, who enjoys NAFTA, is ready to start the talks:
“The trilateral agreement has been an immense benefit for all parties,” Mexico’s economic ministry said in a statement. “Mexico reaffirms its willingness to update NAFTA.”
Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso said in a press conference held at the US State Department that Mexico is prepared to “make it better.”
Canada also enjoys NAFTA, but says officials are ready to join the negotiations:
“NAFTA’s track record is one of economic growth and middle-class job creation,” Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement.
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