Trump triggers NAFTA talks

North American Free Trade Agreement

U.S. President Donald Trump's threats to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement are coming to fruition.

US President Donald Trump's Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, has sent a letter to congress officially declaring the president's intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

The negotiations could begin as early as August 16. It proposes "modernization" of the agreement, with new provisions on digital trade, intellectual-property rights, labor and environmental standards, regulatory measures and so on.

"Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his key promises to the American people", Lighthizer said in a statement.

During the election campaign, Trump called the trade deal with Mexico and Canada a "disaster" that cost millions of U.S.jobs and hollowed out the manufacturing sector. It created a trade agreement between Canada - Mexico and the United States, essentially getting rid of import or export taxes.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to scrap NAFTA altogether, saying it was a disaster for U.S. workers.

At a news conference Thursday at the State Department with Mexican officials and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other US officials, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said Mexico "welcomes" the renegotiation of NAFTA.

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Regarding NAFTA's effect on Canada, Investopedia notes, "Canada experienced a more modest increase in trade with the US than Mexico did as a result of NAFTA, at an inflation-adjusted 63.5 per cent (Canada-Mexico trade remains negligible)". Still, "it's important that Mexico prepare its strategy for any scenario", she said. Open trade is critical to ensuring North American consumers have access to fresh fruit and vegetables year-round, as well as ensuring growth and economic sustainability.

Still, the president's plans to rework NAFTA have drawn cautiously optimistic support. In a letter to House and Senate leaders regarding this renegotiation, Lighthizer indicated that he would also "consult closely with Congress" in developing US negotiating positions.

Ross says the US manufacturing industry has been decimated by NAFTA, a deal the White House considers deeply unfair. "We do have a preference: The agreement is trilateral and should continue to be a trilateral platform", Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told reporters Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign minister said that talks "need to be conducted in a trilateral fashion", and that officials there are "ready to roll up our sleeves".

"The planned negotiations should not weaken or undermine Nafta given its many benefits for the United States", the letter said. "Since NAFTA was implemented, US agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively".

"The letter to Congress has a more conciliatory tone", said Gabriela Cuevas, the head of Mexico's Senate foreign relations committee and a member of the opposition National Action Party.

U.S. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said he will be watching the talks to make sure a new trade deal will "prioritize American workers and help to get middle-class incomes and jobs going again". The impact on some vulnerable US industries was delayed.

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