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20 May 2017, 12:42 | Jan Cross
US launches 90-day countdown to Nafta revamp
"The entire bilateral trade deficit with Canada accounts for about seven hours of the annual GDP of the United States, while Mexico's is little more than one day's worth, and this is the economic disaster the president chooses to hammer on first and foremost?"
"Nine million American jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada". In 1992, USA presidential candidate Ross Perot famously predicted "a giant sucking sound" as American jobs migrated south across the border.
"Trade with its NAFTA partners is much closer to balance than with any other major trading partners", he added. The fruit and vegetable industry is highly dependent on worldwide trade, both exports from the United States and imports from critical trading partners such as Mexico and Canada.
Under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which Congress approved in June 2015 and which covers trade agreements reached before July 1, 2018, the administration is required to give lawmakers 90-days' notice prior to entering talks on a trade deal that would require changes in USA law needed to comply with the agreement.
NAFTA's impact on the economy was more modest than partisans on either side of the debate had expected.
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But Mr Trump backed away from the threat after Canadian and Mexican officials urged Washington to renegotiate and modernise - rather than scrap - the trade pact, which has boosted industry and created tight manufacturing, agriculture and business links throughout the region. "Mexico is our only $1 billion dairy market; finding a replacement for sales that are so critical to supporting tens of thousands of jobs across this country is no small task, so preserving it is essential".
The Congressional Research Service has concluded that the impact of NAFTA on the US economy "has been relatively small".
That $15-billion (U.S.) deficit has been more than offset by a $23-billion surplus in services for the Americans, noted National Bank of Canada chief economist Stéfane Marion. Campaigning past year, Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA and pull out of it he couldn't get a better deal.
In a May 18 letter, newly appointed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress that Trump plans to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding NAFTA within 90 days. "Obviously, dairy trade with Canada - where we continue to face 200%-300% tariffs and a slew of nontariff policies that distort dairy trade - is an entirely different story, and we need to address it as part of these talks". However, organizations incuding Public Citizen and the United Steelworkers union fear that NAFTA renegotiation will be a back-door attempt to revive portions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Trump killed earlier this year after explicitly promising to do so during his campaign. Kalach said after Thursday's announcements it was still unclear exactly what the United States would seek in the renegotiation. The dairy groups have also continued to call for improving market access to Canada and tackling that country's expanding list of protectionist policies and other barriers to USA dairy exports. Together they represent more than 85 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese, ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States.
Trump's efforts to find the political capital to support a new trade pact will be complicated by controversies engulfing the White House. Trump argues Mexico's surplus with the United States proves that the deal has hurt USA industry. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said talks will provide an opportunity to "align NAFTA to new realities", while her Mexican counterpart Luis Videgaray said the three countries can reshape NAFTA "under a win-win framework". "That is our position".
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