Friday, May 19, 2017
Making good on a campaign promise, the Trump administration formally told Congress on Thursday that it intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer sent a letter to congressional leaders Thursday, starting 90 days of consultations with lawmakers over how to revamp the pact. Talks with Canada and Mexico can begin after that.
The two-page letter offered few details about what changes the administration would seek in the 23-year-old pact that President Donald Trump has called “a disaster.” Lighthizer told reporters that any new deal should do a better job of protecting U.S. factory workers and should be updated to reflect new technologies.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Cleveland, said he is ready to work with the Trump Administration to renegotiate NAFTA. This month, Brown sent Trump a four-point plan for securing the best deal for American workers in renegotiating NAFTA.
Last month, White House aides spread word that Trump was ready to pull out of NAFTA. Within hours, the president reversed course and said that he’d seek a better deal first.
“We are going to give renegotiation a good strong shot,” Lighthizer said. He refused to say whether leaving NAFTA remained an option.
The trade agreement has been a lightning rod for criticism since it was being negotiated in the early 1990s. During the 1992 presidential campaign, independent candidate Ross Perot famously predicted a “giant sucking sound” as NAFTA pulled U.S. factory jobs south of the border into Mexico. Campaigning last year, Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA and pull out of it if he couldn’t get a better deal.
NAFTA took effect in 1994 and triggered a big increase in trade among the three countries. American farmers have mostly benefited from the reduction in trade barriers. But the pact did encourage American manufacturers to relocate some operations to Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor there; so critics blame NAFTA for wiping out U.S. factory jobs.