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19 May 2017, 09:09 | Marion Schneider
Lighthizer was required to do so under a law that enables the president to fast-track trade legislation through Congress.
"I can not emphasize enough how important our Mexican customers are to U.S. wheat farmers", Jason Scott, a wheat farmer from Easton, Md., and chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates, which promotes U.S. wheat exports, says in a written statement.
The Obama administration attempted to address many of these deficiencies in the 2015 Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which included Canada and Mexico, but Trump pulled out of TPP in one of his first official acts as president.
NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, was a three-country accord negotiated by Canada, Mexico and the United States with an aim to eliminate most tariffs on products traded among the three countries.
"We are at an important juncture that 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", said Chrystia Freeland, the minister of foreign affairs, who has been charged by Trudeau to focus on relations with the Trump administration.
That follows on the heels of disputes with Canada over lumber imports and dairy exports, and with Mexico over sugar imports, just a small sample of the many trade disputes announced in the last three months. Tariff-free access to Canada and Mexico past year were worth $799 million and $1.4 billion respectively.
"Sectors such as manufacturing, particularly with regard to Mexico, have fallen behind, he said". "When we lose manufacturing facilities, we lose the thousands of good-paying jobs associated with those facilities, directly impacting middle-class Americans".
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She reiterated the government's key message on NAFTA - that it is in fact a good deal for all parties, including the USA, where nine million American jobs are dependent on it. Even so, a modernized Nafta seems achievable.
But Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio - who met with Lighthizer on Wednesday - said he was told the administration doesn't want to disrupt investors or trade patterns when it renegotiates NAFTA.
"So far, this administration's trade policy has been characterized by a lot of talk and no action", he said in a statement.
"For example, digital trade was in infancy when NAFTA was enacted", Lighthizer wrote.
In his campaign for the White House, Donald Trump stressed the dangers of consistently running a trade deficit. Former FBI director Robert Mueller this week was named special counsel overseeing a probe into Russia's role in the 2016 election. USA corn refiners, who battled for years in the late 1990s and early 2000s over access to the Mexican market for HFCS, are concerned about fallout from a renewed trade spat in sweeteners.
Through renegotiations, "the United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the USA economy by improving U.S. opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico", Lighthizer said in the letter sent to Congressional leadership. "We don't know enough".
The notice sent Thursday instead mentioned repeatedly that any changes would be the result of congressional consultation and pledged close coordination and "transparency" with lawmakers throughout the renegotiation process.
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This is the first step toward reshaping a trade deal that became law in 1994 and changed the face of trade in North America. The two-page letter offered few details about what changes the administration would seek in the negotiations.