WASHINGTON — United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Thursday morning notified Congress that President Donald Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“Through these negotiations, the United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico,” Lighthizer said.
In the letter to Congress, Lighthizer expresses the Trump administration’s commitment to concluding the negotiations with timely and substantive results for U.S. consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers.
These goals will be pursued consistent with U.S. priorities and the negotiating objectives established by Congress in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, the letter stated.
“Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his key promises to the American people. 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. “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.”
Lighthizer stressed that NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago, and while U.S. economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not.
“Many chapters are outdated and do not reflect modern standards. For example, digital trade was in its infancy when NAFTA was enacted,” he said in the letter. “In addition, and consistent with the negotiating objectives in the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (TPA), our aim is that NAFTA 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. Moreover, establishing effective implementation and aggressive enforcement of the commitments made by our trading partners under our trade agreements is vital to the success of those agreements and should be improved in the context of NAFTA.”
Any revamped trade deal must dramatically help those on the job, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said after the letter was sent.
“From the beginning more than a quarter century ago, the Teamsters have been front-and-center in sticking up for workers and their rights under the North American Free Trade Agreement. And that won’t change with the issuance of administration’s final NAFTA notification letter,” Hoffa said. “The Teamsters are America’s leading transportation union and know what is at stake when it comes to crafting a new NAFTA. Our members have stood in historic opposition to this broken trade pact in part due to terrible provisions such as cross-border long-haul trucking language that jeopardizes highway safety and threatens the environment in this country. Measures like that need to be stripped from the pact – full stop.
Hoffa said the Teamsters are optimistic Lighthizer will fulfill the promises of this administration to dramatically reform NAFTA to focus on jobs that will help hardworking Americans.
“It is time to rein in the off-shoring of U.S. livelihoods that only benefit big business,” Hoffa, who is a member of the advisory committee for trade policy and negotiations, said.
Trump announced the United States’ intention to engage in negotiations related to NAFTA on February 2.
Since then, USTR has begun consultations with committees of jurisdiction in Congress and advisory committees, as outlined by TPA.