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Trump administration writes Congress to officially trigger NAFTA renegotiation

19 May 2017, 08:40 | Taylor George

With the USTR finally in place, the Trump Administration gives official notice for NAFTA talks.

"That being said, the Teamsters are optimistic new U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will fulfill the promises of this administration to dramatically reform NAFTA to focus on jobs that will help hardworking Americans". The notification means talks with Canada and Mexico can't begin before August 16.

"The United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the USA economy by improving US opportunities under NAFTA", the letter reads.

Among the goals are adding provisions to address digital trade, intellectual property rights, customs procedures, phytosanitary standards for health and quality of livestock and produce, and labor and environmental standards, he wrote.

On the campaign trail and in office, President Donald Trump derided NAFTA as a "horrible deal for the United States", "the worst trade deal maybe ever", and "a defective agreement".

Freeland said the federal government will continue to consult on NAFTA with provinces, territories, industry and union stakeholders, as well as citizens. "President Trump is going to change that".

President Trump said he was planning on pulling the US out of NAFTA until he was called by the presidents of Mexico and Canada.

"This agreement was negotiated almost 25 years ago, and the economies of all three countries have changed considerably in that time", Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty said in a news release. The letter also provides specifics about what the US wants to discuss during the negotiations. Last month, White House aides spread word that President Trump was ready to pull out of the agreement.

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Mr. Lighthizer's assertion that Nafta has been bad for American manufacturers will be hotly contested by the American business community, which has argued that the pact has done a lot to sustain some USA factories by creating more efficient continental supply chains that allowed US firms to better compete globally. Barely two pages long, it sticks to fairly general statements, such as improving "US opportunities under Nafta" and modernizing the trade agreement, which took effect in 1994.

Trump's vows to scrap or renegotiate NAFTA were a centerpiece of his campaign.

"As a starting point for negotiations, we should build on what has worked in NAFTA and change and improve what has not", Lighthizer said in a conference call with reporters.

"The government of Mexico welcomes this development", Videgaray said at a news conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other Mexican and US officials at the State Department.

"We are at an important juncture that offers us an opportunity to determine how we can best align NAFTA to new realities - and integrate progressive, free and fair approaches to trade and investment", Freeland said.

The three countries have already sorted out a key issue, which is that future talks will be held on a trilateral basis.

Still, Canada and Mexico have only limited room to make deep concessions to Washington, given their own domestic political situations. The legal battles can take years to resolve. He has faulted the agreement for shifting American factory jobs to Mexico.



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