NAFTA critic calls Trump plans "markedly vague"

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 19, 2017

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer gave official notice to Congress on Thursday of the government's intention to renegotiate the 23-year-old accord with Mexico and Canada.

But he noted that trade deals can take years to negotiate and that USA mid-term elections, as well as a presidential election in Mexico next year, will take place during NAFTA talks.

The Trump administration launched the process for opening NAFTA for revisions on Thursday and will likely face pressures from the politically connected US corn industry to maintain market access to Mexico, one of its biggest customers.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last week said the White House had not yet decided whether to continue the pact as a three-nation deal, or split it into two separate bilateral agreements, something Canada and Mexico oppose. Trump pulled the country out of TPP during his first week in office, before Congress could approve the deal.

Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered, and countless workers left jobless.

"We are prepared", Videgaray said Thursday in Washington.

"For all his rhetoric, President Trump looks to be sorely disappointing American workers on trade", she said. "For us as the sugar industry it's important to maintain the trade balance in sweeteners in the region".

"We believe today's action signals the beginning of a strong trade agenda for USA exporters".

Lighthizer's statements Thursday morning offered few if any details on what specifically the administration hoped to change. "If the USA acts against the interest and halts the trade in sweeteners between the US and Mexico, that would not only be bad for but it would put Mexico in a position that they would need to show how tough and retaliatory they can be", he added. "We absolutely must not have any disruptions in exports to our No. 2 (Mexico) and No. 4 (Canada) markets", said Ken Maschhoff, NPPC president. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi complained that "the president's vague NAFTA letter is a stark contrast with the aggressive promises he made to hard-working families during the campaign".

Addressing currency manipulation became a principal USA negotiating objective of trade agreements as part of a trade promotion bill passed in 2015.

Freeland was asked about perceived efforts by the pit Canada and Mexico against each other in the lead-up to these talks.

"If the Trump administration is honest, I am more than ready to roll up my sleeves and work with them, to forge a deal that boosts American jobs".

Lighthizer stressed that NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago, and while USA economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not. At least 30 days prior to negotiations starting, the administration must make public a "detailed and comprehensive summary of the specific objectives" for a new agreement. The letter to Congress is not almost as detailed as an earlier draft that was prepared before Lighthizer was confirmed.

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