Trump administration announces plans to renegotiate NAFTA
09:41, May 19, 2017
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"The president's leadership on trade will permanently reverse the unsafe trajectory of American trade", U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters in a conference call today. "While our economy and businesses have changed considerably, NAFTA has not". In fact, US manufacturing exports to Canada and Mexico have increased almost 260% over the past 23 years, and USA farm exports to the countries have grown by more than 150%.
The two-page letter offered few details about what changes the administration would seek in the 23-year-old pact that President Donald Trump has called "a disaster".
A prominent critic of USA trade agreement calls the administration's plans "markedly vague".
Democrats, too - who have long heard from angry workers that NAFTA was draining jobs and resources away from the US, although the evidence of that across the country is clearly mixed - also indicated they were hoping for the best from the negotiations.
"Sectors like manufacturing, particularly with regard to Mexico, have fallen behind", Lighthizer said.
US agricultural exports to Mexico have quintupled under NAFTA, and ag exports to Canada have tripled. However, he added that the agreement doesn't do enough to address digital commerce and intellectual property, and that labor and environmental matters are treated as an "afterthought". Right now, he says he wants a quick deal and a thorough deal.
In a letter to Congress, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer signalled the government's intention to start renegotiations "as soon as practicable".
Lighthizer said the administration will consider other options if trilateral talks fail.
Trump's aides, according to a report in the Washington publication Politico, had earlier been said to be drafting an executive order to withdraw from NAFTA - a threat that quickly drew fire from members of Congress including Republican U.S. Sens. Campaigning previous year, Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA and pull out of it he couldn't get a better deal.
The American Apparel & Footwear Association, National Retail Federation, RILA and United States Fashion Industry Association urged the USTR to ensure "renegotiation will "do no harm" to the successful supply chains that we rely on today".
Mr Trump faces a political crisis in Washington related to an investigation of ties to Russian Federation.
The letter begins a 90-day window before beginning formal negotiations as early as August 16. It is going through the U.S. Congress's fast-track law.
"As this administration tries to renegotiate NAFTA, I won't let anyone forget that North Dakota farmers and ranchers rely on exports to Canada and Mexico to make a living", said Heitkamp.
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