Trump pulls trigger for NAFTA talks

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified congressional leaders yesterday that negotiations with Canada and Mexico would take place "as soon as practicable", according to NPR. "Canada and Mexico are our top export markets", says NPPC President Ken Maschoff, "and we absolutely must not have any trade disruptions".

In his campaign, Trump railed against NAFTA, saying that the deal has sapped manufacturing jobs from the U.S. He has kept up that rhetoric since he took office, and his administration has taken actions against what it deems unfair Canadian practices. Yet like all trade deals, its benefits have been broadly distributed over the USA population, while its negative consequences have been felt sharply by a smaller group of people, who have lost their jobs as industries reorganized around the North American continent.

"We understand that this is a 25-year-old agreement", he said at a State Department summit on drug cartels with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday.

Trump's leaked NAFTA renegotiation plan describes just what the corporate lobby is demanding: using NAFTA talks to revive large parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership making NAFTA even worse for people and the planet. Nowhere is the importance of trade stronger than right here in North America.

The TPA, which gives lawmakers a yes-or-no vote on amending trade deals, was passed amid tension over whether the US should sign the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, championed by then-President Barack Obama.

The letter did not, however, offer details about what the scope of these negotiations would include.

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Steve Verheul, the chief negotiator for Canada's new trade agreement with the European Union, is expected to play a central role in the NAFTA talks. "President Trump is going to change that". There's no guarantee its next president will cooperate with Trump on NAFTA given his anti-Mexico rhetoric. "Congress looks forward to working hand-in-hand with the Trump administration to achieve the best deal possible for American workers and our economy".

The notification starts the clock on a 90-day period in which Congress will consult with the administration about its goals.

"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", he wrote.

Addressing currency manipulation became a principal USA negotiating objective of trade agreements as part of a trade promotion bill passed in 2015.

Discussing the effect of currency valuations during Nafta negotiations is "a model statute that could be applicable generally", said Wyden, relaying what he heard from Lighthizer.

Lighthizer's letter (https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Press/Releases/NAFTA%20Notification.pdf) is less detailed than a draft sent to lawmakers in March, which listed as objectives tax equality and the ability to reimpose tariffs if Mexican and Canadian imports pose a serious injury threat to USA industry. At least 30 days prior to negotiations starting, the administration must make public a "detailed and comprehensive summary of the specific objectives" for a new agreement.

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