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The U.S. Formally Launches NAFTA Renegotiation Process

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U.S. Trade Representative Letter to Congress Starts 90-Day Countdown to Begin NAFTA Renegotiation 2017-05-18

Today (May 18, 2017), President Trump’s administration officially notified U.S. lawmakers that the United States intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.
 
The letter by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer sent to Congress formally triggered a 90-day countdown whereby talks between the three countries can begin as early as August 16, 2017.
 
U.S. law requires a President to notify Congress at least 90 days in advance before initiating trade negotiations with another country. This notification starts the clock on a 90-day period in which Congress will consult with the U.S. administration about its goals. The letter sent from Lighthizer to members of Congress contained limited details about the administration's plans. The USTR is required by Congress to publish more detailed objectives at least 30 days before formal negotiations begin. Typically, it is Congress that ratifies U.S. treaties; therefore, it will be interesting to see what these objectives will turn out to be.
 
That said, the USTR’s notification letter states that in the negotiations, the U.S. will pursue new provisions on digital trade, intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium-sized enterprises. Other elements of NAFTA could also be revisited, such as rules of origin, duty deferral, and tariff preference levels. The notice further indicates the administration’s intent to improve the “effective implementation and aggressive enforcement” of the commitments made by Canada and Mexico.
 
The USTR now has 60 days to publish (on its website) specific negotiating objectives and a description of how the updated agreement will further those objectives and benefit the U.S.
 
Click below to review some related news articles:
 
Reuters - Trump administration starts countdown to NAFTA talks in mid-August
 
Financial Post – 90 days and counting: What triggering the NAFTA means for Canada
 
CTV News – NAFTA negotiations checklist: A guide to key issues
 
CTV News – Canada ready for NAFTA renegotiation: Freeland
 
Reuters – Canada foreign minister will visit Mexico to discuss NAFTA talks
 

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