Published: Wed, July 19, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

New broad NAFTA goals released by Trump administration

New broad NAFTA goals released by Trump administration

The Trump administration took a major step toward renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with the release Monday of a detailed list of objectives for trade talks.

Under threat of withdrawal from the treaty, Trump demanded "fair treatment for all", during the first months of his administration, signing an executive order on April 29 by which he ordered the Commerce Department to study the trade agreements in force to determine whether the United States' participation was being fairly paid or not, especially by "its trading partners and the World Trade Organization".

It said the aim is to improve market access for U.S. manufacturing, agriculture and services in the three-nation deal.

Today's summary - released by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer - didn't mention the auto industry by name and avoided threats such as those made by Trump to put in place steep tariffs against American auto companies moving or expanding operations in other North American countries. "We will seek to address America's persistent trade imbalances, break down trade barriers, and give Americans new opportunities to grow their exports".

The negotiating summary acknowledges that some Americans have benefited from the market access provided by the 23-year-old accord. This provision in the NAFTA goals would do away with the protections Canada is still able to maintain on the market, opening it up to American competition.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will continue to defend the supply management system that protects the Canadian dairy industry in talks on revamping NAFTA. "But none followed up". "This includes the elimination of unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices by state owned enterprises, and burdensome restrictions of intellectual property", the USTR said in the document posted on Monday.

Polls have suggested that just half of Americans support NAFTA, whereas as much as 80 per cent of Canadians are behind the trilateral trade deal between Canada, the US and Mexico. Some economists anxious that a high tariff - if Trump moved to implement one - could touch off a trade war.

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The public relations battle was apparently sparked by the Trump administration's unequivocal statement on Monday that a renegotiated NAFTA must deliver more for the U.S.

Manufacturing and business groups in the US had a muted reaction.

Meanwhile, it seeks to take steps that could - depending on how the negotiations go - create a better playing field in terms of USA workers' competition with lower-wage employees in Mexico.

NCBA has been an outspoken supporter of NAFTA because the terms of NAFTA developed Canada and Mexico into two very important export markets for US beef.

NAFTA rules of origin stipulate that to qualify for tariff-free access, some products need to be sourced to a certain degree regionally.

Given the United States position, China has seen the opportunity to improve relations with both Mexico and Canada, a scenario that would significantly affect trade relations in the region. However, it also builds off the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that Trump abandoned when he took office, borrowing concepts about labor regulations and the environment.

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