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 USA trade deals".
He also alleged that "Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered, and countless workers left jobless". President Trump made a campaign promise to renegotiate NAFTA - it's time to get it done.
Renegotiation of NAFTA has always been part of President Trump's agenda.
The statement, sent from U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to congressional leaders Thursday morning, offered few, if any, details on what specifically the administration hoped to change. Negotiations with Canada and Mexico will begin as soon as August 16, the administration said.
The split in Congress - which must approve any major overhaul of Nafta - mirrors a division in the Trump administration between traditional business-friendly Republicans and the economic nationalists who frequently join with liberals in calling for measures at the border to protect American workers from unfair competition.
Trump has pledged to use the Nafta talks to shrink goods trade deficits that stood at $63 billion (€56.5 billion) with Mexico and $11 billion with Canada previous year, according to USA census bureau data.
He added that the agreement was outdated and did not reflect modern standards. "We absolutely must not have any disruptions in exports to our No. 2 (Mexico) and No. 4 (Canada) markets", said Ken Maschhoff, NPPC president.
Luis Videgaray, Mexico's foreign minister, said at an event in Washington Thursday that his country is ready for the talks. The Mexican official said he welcomed the opportunity to update the agreement, but insisted it must remain trilateral.
In March, the administration circulated an eight-page draft letter on NAFTA that disappointed critics by appearing to keep much of the existing trade agreement in place. "Nowhere is the importance of trade stronger than right here in North America", National Corn Growers Association President Wesley Spurlock said in a statement. Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary said last week, that the White House was yet to decide whether to continue the pact as a three-nation deal, or split it into two separate bilateral agreements, a move opposed by Canada and Mexico.
Trump has labeled NAFTA the worst trade deal in history. NAFTA had widened access to Mexican and Canadian markets, boosting US farm exports and benefiting many farmers. "Now, if I'm unable to make a fair deal, if I'm unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA".
Commenting on the news, Oregon Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley said, "The key question for trade deals is whether they create good-paying jobs for working Americans, or destroy good-paying jobs".
However, Lighthizer may face pushback from businesses because the community "has argued that the pact has done a lot to sustain some USA factories by creating more efficient continental supply chains that allowed US firms to better compete globally".
In 1993, the year before NAFTA took effect, the United States had sold Mexico $41.6 billion in goods and bought $39.9 billion for a trade surplus of $1.7 billion.
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