Canada Responds To Launch Of US NAFTA Consultations

President Donald Trump's administration is moving forward with renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, and several Democrats from the MI delegation are hoping they keep Congress in the loop throughout the process.

"While NAFTA has been an overall positive for American agriculture, any trade deal can always be improved", said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in response to the announcement.

Asked if the Nafta talks would seek to resolve trade disputes over imports of Canadian softwood lumber or Mexican sugar, Lighthizer said he hoped those issues would be settled before the Nafta talks begin under separate negotiations being conducted by the US Commerce Department.

Just three weeks ago Trump reneged on his vow to completely withdraw from Nafta, which represents a significant amount of USA exports and imports.

He added: "NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago, and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not".

But many Democrats say they will try to hold the administration to its promises on labor and environmental standards, a ban on currency manipulation and novel rules to bring back manufacturing jobs.

"We do have a preference: The agreement is trilateral and should continue to be a trilateral platform", Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told reporters at a briefing with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington. At least 30 days prior to negotiations starting, the administration must make public a "detailed and comprehensive summary of the specific objectives" for a new agreement. Democratic congressmen Richard Neal and Bill Pascrell Jr. said Lighthizer's Nafta letter was lacking in specifics and didn't appear to be seeking the "fundamental reform" that Trump promised during the election. "NAFTA is a trilateral agreement and the conversations need to be trilateral in nature". In particular, it proposed tougher "rules of origin" to require that imports from Canada and Mexico include more US -made content.

"For decades, Southeast Michigan manufacturers at every level of the supply chain have been decimated - put at a competitive disadvantage by countries that unfairly manipulate their currency", he said. "Nine million American jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada". "If renegotiations result in a fairer deal for American workers there is value in making the transition to a modernised Nafta as seamless as possible". By integrating supply chains across North America, keeping a significant share of production in the US became an option for auto makers.

U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak, criticized the administration's approach to renegotiating the deal in a statement, and called for a series of hearings in the Ways and Means Committee before negotiations begin so Congress has complete clarity. "So far, this administration's trade policy has been characterized by a lot of talk and no action", he said in a statement. "With this renegotiation of NAFTA, the Trump Administration has the opportunity to reset that agenda by instituting a new, fair trade framework that works for family farmers, ranchers, and rural residents".

  • Larry Hoffman