USTR Releases NAFTA Negotiating Objectives
United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a summary yesterday of the negotiating objectives for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Through the renegotiation of NAFTA, the USTR said, the Trump administration will seek an agreement that reduces the US trade deficit and improves market access in Canada and Mexico for US manufacturing, agriculture, and services.
According to Lighthizer, Trump is the first president to begin renegotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement like NAFTA and this is the first time the USTR has included deficit reduction as a specific objective for the NAFTA negotiations. Since NAFTA was implemented in 1994, the US bilateral goods trade balance with Mexico has gone from a $1.3 billion surplus to a $64 billion deficit in 2016, according to numbers supplied by the USTR. Market access issues have arisen in Canada with respect to dairy, wine, grain and other products — barriers that the current agreement does not address, according to Lighthizer.
The negotiating objectives also include adding a digital economy chapter and incorporating and strengthening labor and environment obligations that are currently in NAFTA side agreements. The administration will also work to eliminate unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices by state owned enterprises, and burdensome restrictions on intellectual property.
“President Trump continues to fulfill his promise to renegotiate NAFTA to get a much better deal for all Americans,” said Lighthizer. “Too many Americans have been hurt by closed factories, exported jobs, and broken political promises. Under President Trump’s leadership, USTR will negotiate a fair deal.”
On May 18, Lighthizer sent a letter at trump’s direction, notifying Congress of the administration’s intent to initiate NAFTA renegotiations.
Since then, USTR has been conducting extensive consultations with Congress, stakeholders, and the public at large. USTR sought public comments, received more than 12,000 responses, and heard directly from over 140 witnesses over three days of public hearings.
The objectives outlined by Lighthizer, he added, reflect the negotiating standards established by Congress in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA), which requires that USTR release objectives at least 30 days prior to formal negotiations. Negotiations will begin no earlier than August 16, 2017.
“Through these negotiations,” said Lighthizer, “the administration seeks an effectively implemented and enforced agreement for more open, equitable, secure, and reciprocal market access.”