Trump Administration Formally Launches Bid to Renegotiate NAFTA

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With a letter to U.S. lawmakers, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he triggered a 90-day consultation period with Congress, industries and the American public that would allow talks over one of the world's biggest trading blocs to begin by August 16.

Renegotiating NAFTA, which was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, was a central tenant of Trump's campaign.

Trump has repeatedly called NAFTA unfair to the US and a "terrible" deal. After threatening to withdraw from the agreement last month, Trump reconsidered in favor of a renegotiation but said he'll terminate America's involvement if talks don't go his way. Within hours, the president reversed course, saying he'd seek a better deal first.

"Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered, and countless workers left jobless", Ross said in a statement.

America's Nafta partners said on Thursday they welcomed the strategy of modernizing rather than scrapping the trade pact. American farmers have mostly benefited from the reduction in trade barriers.

Unless the two sides reach agreement by June 5, the U.S. Department of Commerce will reinstate anti-dumping and antisubsidy duties on imports of Mexican sugar, risking a backlash from Mexico which denies that it subsidizes or dumps sugar in the U.S. But the administration so far hasn't said what changes it is proposing to bring those jobs back, and Thursday's letter provided no clues. "NAFTA, along with other USA trading relationships, has facilitated the US position as the world's largest importer of fresh produce, importing more than 17 million tons in 2014".

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It's going to be 90 days before anybody sits down at any negotiating tables to start hashing this thing out.

"Trade across the NAFTA countries serves both consumers and deeply connected supply chains, providing significant jobs not only in agriculture but in processing and distribution", Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh, said in the statement. "Thanks to the President's leadership, today my office is formally notifying Congress of the administration's intent to renegotiate NAFTA".

In the letter, Lighthizer says NAFTA should be "modernized to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment and small and medium enterprises".

"We look forward to working with the administration to strengthen the agreement in a seamless way and ensure that we retain the current benefits for American workers, farmers and businesses", said Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

According to the news outlet, the Trump White House must give a more detailed plan of its negotiations 30 days before talks begin. "Achieving this objective starts with ensuring the negotiations protect US agriculture's benefits under the current trade agreement".

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