Just three days after Robert Lighthizer was sworn in as United States Trade Representative, he has provided Congress with the 90-day notice required before the Administration can begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Talks are set to begin on or after August 16th.
Lightizer says the goal of bringing the three countries to the table will be to enable the U.S. to use the deal to support higher paying jobs and to grow the economy. In the letter to Congress, he said the U.S. is looking to modernize the agreement with new provisions in areas such as intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, customs procedures and digital trade.
“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 a statement on the USTR site. “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.”
Changes to—or even a withdrawal from—NAFTA was Donald Trump’s rallying cry throughout his presidential campaign, as he promised a protectionist agenda designed to strengthen the American economy. His rhetoric, which culminated in the circulation of a draft of a withdrawal notice from the White House in April, along with threats of a border tax sent the Mexican peso into free fall and prompted angry rejoinders from politicians from that country. More recently, the president’s language regarding the trade deal has softened after entreaties from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
In a joint letter to Lighthizer this week, the apparel and footwear industries acknowledged that after 23 years NAFTA could use an update, but they made their support for the trade deal clear and asked for a swift resolution.