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German foreign minister says concerned about NAFTA renegotiation
20 May 2017, 12:42 | Austin Hogan
US launches 90-day countdown to Nafta revamp
His comments come a day after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer triggered a 90-day consultation period with Congress for the talks, which could mean negotiations to change the trilateral free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico could begin on August 16. In fact, US manufacturing exports to Canada and Mexico have increased almost 260 percent over the past 23 years, and USA farm exports to the countries have grown by more than 150 percent. Lighthizer was required to do so under a law that enables the president to fast-track trade legislation through Congress.
But he says it's still early days and that Canadians need to step back until the Congress' review is over and the USA position is clearer.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) have repeatedly urged administration officials and legislators to focus on maintaining what has worked well, such as trade with Mexico, the top market for U.S. dairy exports.
"The president's leadership on trade will permanently reverse the risky trajectory of American trade", Lighthizer told reporters Thursday.
Mr. Porter listed some telling statistics: America's combined deficit with its NAFTA partners accounts for just 0.4 per cent of its gross domestic product, up a smidgeon from 0.2 per cent in the past year before the agreement.
NAFTA, like all trade agreements, lays out a series of rules to govern trade between agreeing nations, in this case between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The administration has made reducing the trade deficit a priority, and Lighthizer suggested Thursday the USA will seek to lure back firms that have moved production to Mexico.
That $15-billion (U.S.) deficit has been more than offset by a $23-billion surplus in services for the Americans, noted National Bank of Canada chief economist Stéfane Marion.
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. However, he added that the agreement doesn't do enough to address digital commerce and intellectual property, and that labor and environmental matters are treated as an "afterthought". Speaking at the 47th Washington Conference of the Americas, Secretary Ross earned praise when he staked out a tough position on NAFTA enforcement, saying, "We are going to implement stricter enforcement than any recent administration".
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Lighthizer said the administration will consider other options if trilateral talks fail. The renegotiation of NAFTA presents an opportunity to stand up and level the playing field for the American workers, but President Trump's actions in office so far indicate that he is really fighting for the corporate interests.
America's NAFTA partners said on Thursday they welcomed the strategy of modernizing rather than scrapping the trade pact.
Trump's efforts to find the political capital to support a new trade pact will be complicated by controversies engulfing the White House. During that time, the administration must meet with members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, with a view toward coming up with the principles the US will adopt during the negotiations.
Congressional Democrats were more skeptical about Trump's plans.
"So one-sided. Wilbur will tell you that, you know, like, at the court in Canada, we always lose".
Renegotiation talks will begin no earlier than Aug 16, he said in a statement.
Digital trade was in its infancy when NAFTA was negotiated, according to Lighthizer. Lighthizer's official notice to Congress, which came in the form of a letter to Republican and Democratic leaders, didn't highlight exchange rates as a specific priority.
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