US Strikes Gentler Tone on Nafta as Countdown to Talks Begins

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 23, 2017

The final notice sent Thursday by Lighthizer to Congress described the negotiations with Mexico and Canada as a "modernization" of the trade deal.

In the letter to Congress, Lighthizer expressed the Trump Administration's "commitment to concluding the negotiations with timely and substantive results for USA consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers". He has also threatened to quit NAFTA so as to ramp up pressure on Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the trade agreement.

Lighthizer said the US wants to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises, and customs procedures, among others. "Now, if I'm unable to make a fair deal, if I'm unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA".

Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President of Public Policy with United Fresh, adds that "The past 25 years of NAFTA has seen important growth in the fruit and vegetable industry to meet consumer demand".

But many Democrats say they will try to hold the administration to its promises on labor and environmental standards, a ban on currency manipulation and novel rules to bring back manufacturing jobs.

"For all his rhetoric, President Trump looks to be sorely disappointing American workers on trade", she said.

The United States officially indicated its intention to renegotiate the trade deal on Wednesday, marking the start of a 90-day consultation window before formal talks get underway.

"We need to make sure that NAFTA is not a back-door negotiation for the privileged few", said Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

Perdue said while NAFTA had been "largely beneficial for American agriculture, any trade deal can always be improved".

Trump made NAFTA a key issue during the election, calling it the "worst deal in U.S. history, " and promising to "tear it up" if he could not renegotiate the agreement.

Though manufacturing has dominated much of the discussion about NAFTA, U.S. agriculture has a huge stake, too.

Pacheco feels the NAFTA negotations might mimic a recent trade deal between US and China that many called lackluster. But Mr. Trump faces stiff resistance from business-minded Republicans in Congress and sectors that fear major changes would harm their bottom lines."Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his key promises to the American people", Mr. Lighthizer said on Thursday. This shows the benefits to the US of pursuing big multilateral trade deals, where bargains of that kind can be struck, rather than the narrow or bilateral agreements that Trump says he prefers. In particular, it proposed tougher "rules of origin" to require that imports from Canada and Mexico include more US -made content.

Trump officials haven't yet been specific about what they want to change in the deal. The earliest talks will begin is August 16.

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 14 million US jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico.

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