Trump administration announces plans to renegotiate NAFTA

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross takes a portrait after an interview in his office in Washington

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross takes a portrait after an interview in his office in Washington

The governor of solidly Republican Nebraska joined state agriculture officials and Mexican grain buyers Tuesday to preach caution as President Trump attempts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The meeting was one of several on Capitol Hill this week involving Lighthizer, who was sworn in as USA trade representative on Monday, that are required for the Trump administration to trigger the start of the NAFTA negotiating process with a 90-day consultation period.

Before officially starting talks with Nafta partners Canada and Mexico, the Trump administration must notify Congress to begin 90 days of domestic consultations.

US critics blame it for killing manufacturing jobs, a constant refrain in Trump's presidential campaign. After threatening to withdraw from the agreement last month, Trump reconsidered in favor of a renegotiation but said he'll terminate America's involvement if talks don't go his way. "Modest tweaks will not stop NAFTA's ongoing damage, much less deliver on (President Donald) Trump's promises for a deal that will create American jobs and raise wages", she says.

If the president believes NAFTA has harmed some Americans, he ought to first look at the USA map and understand how far and wide farm country stretches.

USA farmers exported 523 million bushels of corn to Mexico in 2016, with $2.5 billion coming back in the trade, according to the National Corn Growers Association.

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The U.S. sugar industry pressed the U.S. Commerce Department late past year to withdraw from a 2014 agreement that sets prices and quotas for U.S. imports of Mexican sugar unless the deal could be renegotiated. "President Trump is going to change that".

Heitkamp did, however, point out three areas in which she feels NAFTA could be modernized to take into account some concerns: Canadian grain grading standards, Mexican sugar dumping and country of origin labeling of meat. In 2016, USA corn exports to Mexico totaled 13.3 million metric tons (523.5 million bushels) of corn, valued at $2.5 billion.

An eight-page draft of the letter circulated in March, though the details were vague.

"They get a little reassurance of how important we think trade is", Wesely says. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, called it "markedly vague".

"We look forward to working with the administration to strengthen the agreement in a seamless way and ensure that we retain the current benefits for American workers, farmers and businesses", says Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Political pressures in 2018 - a presidential election in Mexico and congressional elections in the United States - could make it harder to seal an agreement next year.

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