USTR sends NAFTA renegotiation notice to Congress

The Hagstrom Report
Wilbur Ross

Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer formally notified Congress that President Donald Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

In a briefing for reporters, Lighthizer said the notification means that negotiations could start on Aug. 16 and that USTR will publish the goals for the negotiations 30 days before negotiations begin. The letter to Congress is not nearly as detailed as an earlier draft that was prepared before Lighthizer was confirmed.

Lighthizer said he hopes the negotiations will be completed by the end of 2017, but that Trump “wants this done as quickly as possible.”

He also said that while he expects tåhe agreement to be trilateral, some of the negotiations will be bilateral.

Lighthizer declined to say whether withdrawal from NAFTA is still on the table, but said he hopes withdrawal is not necessary.

Also asked whether the sugar conflict with Mexico and the softwood lumber conflict with Canada will be in the negotiations, he said he hopes those talks, which the Commerce Department is handling, will be completed before the NAFTA negotiations.

In a news release, USTR said, “Through these negotiations, the United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico.”

“Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his key promises to the American people. For years, politicians have called for the renegotiation of this agreement, but President Trump is the first to follow through with that promise,” Lighthizer said in the release.

“USTR will now continue consultations with Congress and American stakeholders to create an agreement that advances the interests of America’s workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses.”

USTR noted that Trump announced the U.S.’s intention to engage in negotiations related to NAFTA on Feb. 2, and that since then, USTR has begun consultations with committees of jurisdiction in Congress and advisory committees.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross emphasized the importance of manufacturing in his statement on the NAFTA negotiations.

“With this letter, we intend to notify not just Congress, but all our trading partners, that free and fair trade is the new standard for U.S. trade deals,” Ross said in the statement.

“Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered and countless workers left jobless,” Ross said. “President Trump is going to change that. I look forward working with the president, Ambassador Lighthizer, and our counterparts from Mexico and Canada, to find a solution that is both fair and beneficial for all parties.”