Trump pulls trigger for NAFTA talks

Trump's decision to start the 90-day period comes a few weeks after he threatened to pull out of NAFTA.

"Through these negotiations, the United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the US economy by improving USA opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico", Lighthizer said.

Lighthizer said in his letter to Congress that many parts of the trade agreement are outdated and that the US aims to support higher-paying jobs domestically and to grow the domestic economy by improving trade opportunities with Canada and Mexico.

"I would note that many of these negotiations will be bilateral and numerous issues are bilateral, but our hope is that we will end up with a structure that is similar to what we have now", he said.

Mr. Trump was elected in part with a message of regaining American manufacturing jobs, and Mr. Lighthizer said Thursday that manufacturing will be a key focus of the talks. But for others, like manufacturing, it had not. "The world has changed, we've learned a lot and we can make it better". Among the areas the United States wants to update are digital trade, intellectual property, labor, and the environment. In part, that's because trade represents a surprisingly small portion of the US economy _ 28 per cent in 2015, according to the World Bank, one of the lowest shares in the world. "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 the release.

Economists generally agree that NAFTA has benefited the US economy overall by increasing trade.

"Before NAFTA went into effect - by the way, NAFTA, a total disaster - there were 280,000 autoworkers in Michigan", said President Trump at Ypsilanti, Michigan's American Center for Mobility during a visit last March.

The premier says the government is working in Washington and in state capitals across the U.S.to address issues that could affect Ontario-U.S. trade and ensure the province's interests are represented.

"The political debate surrounding the agreement was divisive with proponents arguing that the agreement would help generate thousands of jobs and reduce income disparity in the region, while opponents warned that the agreement would cause huge job losses in the United States as companies moved production to Mexico to lower costs". He's been highly critical of the deal, blaming it for the steady loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States over the past several decades as automakers export jobs to Mexico, where part and vehicle assembly is cheaper.

"Congress and the Administration must work hand-in-hand if we are to achieve the high-standard trade agreements our country needs to grow", Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said in a statement.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign affairs minister, says renegotiating the trade pact "offers us an opportunity to determine how we can best align NAFTA to new realities - and integrate progressive, free and fair approaches to trade and investment". The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation accord that was negotiated by the Obama administration and thrown overboard by Trump, took eight years to hash out, according to PIIE.

Lighthizer declined to say whether withdrawal from NAFTA is still on the table, but said he hopes withdrawal is not necessary. And the changes will include new provisions on intellectual property rights and digital trade.

It remains to be seen whether numerous administration's goals for renegotiating NAFTA are ultimately drawn from provisions in the TPP. Trump heavily criticized the TPP during the campaign and signed a presidential memo to formally withdraw the United States from the deal as one of his first actions in office.

Lighthizer's letter (https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/files/Press/Releases/NAFTA%20Notification.pdf) is less detailed than a draft sent to lawmakers in March, which listed as objectives tax equality and the ability to reimpose tariffs if Mexican and Canadian imports pose a serious injury threat to US industry.

The U.S. trade representative is required by Congress to publish more-detailed objectives at least 30 days before formal negotiations begin.

Trump late in April had considered a full withdrawal from NAFTA, but was persuaded by senior officials in his administration to pursue negotiations instead.

Lighthizer's letter to Congress confirms that the Trump administration wants to renegotiate the deal, and not just scrap it.

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