Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Economy | By Annette Adams

United States launches NAFTA renegotiation countdown

United States launches NAFTA renegotiation countdown

The importance of ag exports to Canada and Mexico shouldn't be overlooked or taken for granted, says Chip Councell, chairman of the U.S. Grains Council and a Maryland farmer, in a written statement.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday with the NAFTA announcement "we intend to notify not just Congress, but all our trading partners, that free and fair trade is the new standard for United States trade deals".

The president, whose campaign trail vows to tear up NAFTA appealed to his base of disaffected working-class voters aggrieved by globalization, is under mounting pressure to follow through on his pledge.

Brian Hengesbaugh, data protection partner at Baker McKenzie in Chicago, told Bloomberg BNA May 18 that data privacy and localization provisions requiring companies to store personal data within a country's borders should be included in all trade deals.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer formally notified Congress of the intent to revamp the pact with Canada and Mexico, which accounts for about $1 trillion in annual trade.

The U.S. can be expected to play hardball when the NAFTA negotiations begin, but its negotiators shouldn't expect Canada and Mexico to accept a deal that is counterproductive to their own economies.

Lighthize pledges to work closely with Congress throughout the negotiations and commits to providing "timely and substantive results for US consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers and workers".

Lighthizer's letter added that there would also be stiffer enforcement of NAFTA going forward.

But many Democrats say they will try to hold the administration to its promises on labor and environmental standards, a ban on currency manipulation and novel rules to bring back manufacturing jobs.

Trump agreed not to pull out of NAFTA last month after phone calls with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. He promised a very aggressive negotiating schedule to conclude the talks as quickly as possible.

Mexico's Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso said in a press conference held at the US State Department that Mexico is prepared to "make it better".

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign minister, told reporters in Ottawa that the talks "need to be conducted in a trilateral fashion", and that officials there are "ready to roll up our sleeves". "The world has changed".

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland emphasized Thursday that the three-month notice period is an anticipated part of the USA process, and Lighthizer gave Canada advance notice of his letter.

"The president's leadership on trade will permanently reverse the unsafe trajectory of American trade", Lighthizer told reporters Thursday. But Schwab, now at the University of Maryland, said, "The key is, how is it renegotiated? While the NAFTA notice lacks many specifics, this union will head into discussions with clear objectives that will put the needs of the people above those of the powerful".

Canada and Mexico supported TPP, and so they might be open to renegotiating Nafta in that way. "I'd sure hate to see us being pushed on timelines rather than getting a good agreement".

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