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Trump administration notifies Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA
19 May 2017, 11:14 | Jan Cross
The move launches a 90-day consultation period involving Congress, industry groups and US President Donald Trump's administration, after which time talks with NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico can begin, possibly as soon as mid-August.
A major hurdle was cleared last week when the Senate confirmed Trump's top negotiator, Robert Lighthizer.
The letter did not, however, offer details about what the scope of these negotiations would include. He also cited digital trade, describing it as "in its infancy when NAFTA was enacted".
Hayes noted that Louisiana's textile industry lost thousands of jobs following NAFTA, with much of that work moving to lower-cost labor in Mexico.
In a notification letter sent to Congress, Ambassador Lighthizer outlined some of the areas of the agreement that are either outdated or missing - several of which are important to the USA dairy industry - and reaffirmed commitment to pursuing the trade priorities outlined by TPA, including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. "We can make this a negotiation that is good for the three parties involved, certainly, under a win-win framework", Videgaray said, according to the State Department transcript.
In particular, she mentioned the labour and environment chapters as areas that would benefit from modernization. The letter also provides specifics about what the US wants to discuss during the negotiations.
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Mexico said Thursday that it welcomes the opportunity to renegotiate NAFTA.
Freeland said it was premature to speak about the timelines for the talks. In 1993, the Canadian lumber industry won a victory over their USA counterparts in a Chapter 19 decision on US barriers to imported lumber. Pres. Trump backed away from the threat to withdraw from NAFTA after Canadian and Mexican officials urged Washington to renegotiate and modernize the trade pact instead of scrapping it. "We have been from day one", Freeland told reporters. "We are steadfastly committed to free trade in the North American region and to ensuring that the benefits of trade are enjoyed by all Canadians". She said it hasn't yielded a single year of trade and jobs balance or surplus in a quarter century, and she's eager for it to be renegotiated. "He wanted to show the importance of the key accords to Canada".
Hayes said it's a better idea to renegotiate than to impose some sort of unilateral tariff, an approach that would leave USA firms vulnerable to retaliation.
"The trilateral agreement has been an huge benefit for all parties", Mexico's economic ministry said in a statement. The U.S. has also indicated it would like to overhaul the process under which foreign companies can be challenged in court by the state, and strengthen the ability of government contracts to give preference to U.S. companies.
Dan Ujczo, an worldwide trade and customs lawyer with cross-border business law firm Dickinson Wright LLP, said sending the letter out so quickly demonstrates a "need for speed" on getting the trade talks underway ahead of the USA midterm elections in 2018 and the Mexican presidential elections in 2018. "We've learned a lot and we can make it better", Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray said today during a press conference with USA secretary of State Rex Tillerson. "We want to make sure that we don't lose that".
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