Trump administration readies NAFTA renegotiation

Gladys Abbott
May 20, 2017

"The way we're going to go about it is product by product, country by country", Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC Thursday, referring to trade policy generally.

It also did not include the type of harsh rhetoric the president has used to describe NAFTA or the trade practices of Canada and Mexico in the past.

"Our focus in Canada is on getting a good deal", she said, noting that the renegotiation needs to be done in a "trilateral fashion", with Canada, U.S. and Mexico all at the table together.

Trump has frequently called the 23-year-old trade pact a "disaster" that has emptied USA factories and sent well-paid manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Pres. Trump backed away from the threat to withdraw from NAFTA after Canadian and Mexican officials urged Washington to renegotiate and modernize the trade pact instead of scrapping it.

The US president formally abandoned Washington's intent to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership - the sweeping trade agreement signed under the preceding administration previous year - just days after being sworn into office in January.

Formal talks between the three countries are now expected to take place in August, with a 90-day notification period required from the first announcement to the US Congress. "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".

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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. Last month, White House aides spread word that President Trump was ready to pull out of the agreement. He promised a very aggressive negotiating schedule to conclude the talks as quickly as possible.

"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. "With that said, NAFTA can be improved to incentivise more textile and apparel jobs and production in the US, Canada, and Mexico".

The president has vowed to negotiate a better NAFTA - or to walk away from the agreement if he can't get one. He once referred to it as the "worst trade deal in the history of the world".

"NAFTA's track record is one of economic growth and middle-class job creation, both here in Canada and throughout North America", she said in a statement.

In recent speeches, Donohue has said that 14 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico and that the first objective of the administration should be to "do no harm".

Both organizations commented that trade in fresh fruit and vegetables in North America is highly integrated across the entire supply chain. Ross stressed that the emphasis should be on "free and fair trade." said in a statement Thursday.

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