USTR sends NAFTA renegotiation notice to Congress

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 20, 2017

His comments come a day after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer triggered a 90-day consultation period with Congress for the talks, which could mean negotiations to change the trilateral free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico could begin on August 16.

In a notification letter sent today to Congress, Ambassador Lighthizer outlined some of the areas of the agreement that are either outdated or missing - several of which are important to the USA dairy industry - and reaffirmed commitment to pursuing the trade priorities outlined by TPA, including goals related to market access and curbing the abuse of geographical indications.

"Canada and Mexico are top pork export markets".

Videgaray's comments come a day after President Donald Trump prompted a 90-day countdown to negotiations regarding the trade agreement.

Trump argues Mexico's surplus with the United States proves that the deal has hurt USA industry.

Last month, White House aides spread word that Trump was ready to pull out of NAFTA.

"With this first step, I now encourage the administration to swiftly commence modernization negotiations with our NAFTA partners and prioritize their quick conclusion", said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC.

"We are going to give renegotiation a good strong shot", Lighthizer said. "Without this trade agreement and the market access it provides, the United States would stand to lose almost $2 billion annually in dairy exports and tens of thousands of farming and manufacturing jobs in communities across the country", said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO. In 1992, US presidential candidate Ross Perot famously predicted "a giant sucking sound" as American jobs migrated south across the border. Campaigning previous year, Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA and pull out of it he couldn't get a better deal.

Newly installed US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthi- zer formally notified Congress of the intent to revamp the 23-year- old pact with Canada and Mexico, which accounts for about US$1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) in annual trade. But the pact did encourage American manufacturers to relocate some operations to Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor there; so critics blame NAFTA for wiping out US factory jobs.

"Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered, and countless workers left jobless", Ross said. That letter fulfills a requirement that the President has of giving Congress ninety days notice prior to renegotiating the trade deal.

Digital trade was in its infancy when NAFTA was negotiated, according to Lighthizer.

The two-page letter offered few details about what changes the administration would seek in the negotiations. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, called it "markedly vague". The administration will work closely with Congress to ensure that the goals of the renegotiation are consistent with congressional priorities, Lighthizer wrote. The American Farm Bureau looks forward to working with the administration, Congress, other agricultural groups, and officials in Canada and Mexico to protect these important markets while also addressing issues that have limited the trade potential of US farmers and ranchers.

Mexico and Canada signaled that they welcomed the opportunity to modernize the agreement. Those more skeptical of free-trade largely believe that NAFTA has primarily allowed companies to boost profits through job outsourcing while Mexico's employment gains are the United States' losses. Or it could take a more aggressive approach, putting pressure on Mexico to reduce the trade gap, perhaps by dropping a value-added tax Mexico slaps on goods coming across the border.

There is still a lot more that must happen before any modifications of the agreement can be made.

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