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Trump administration triggers launch of Nafta renegotiations

Trump administration triggers launch of Nafta renegotiations

On Thursday, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer formally notified congressional leaders by letter that the president intends to start talks "as soon as practicable", initiating a 90-day period in which congress and the administration will agree the objectives of the negotiations.

The letter begins a 90-day window before beginning formal negotiations as early as August 16.

"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", said Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Lighthizer said reforming the trade agreement, which Trump vowed to scrap altogether during his presidential campaign, fulfills a key promise to voters.

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"Nafta was negotiated 25 years ago, and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, Nafta has not", Mr. Lighthizer wrote in the letter.

"NAFTA is the most critical free trade agreement on the books for US grain farmers, providing open access to countries that are among our top corn, sorghum and barley export markets, as well as significant and growing markets for distiller's dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and meat products made using grain", Counsell says.

In the call, he said the United States favored keeping the trilateral structure of the pact, rather than negotiating separate bilateral deals with Canada and Mexico, an idea administration officials had previously floated.

Trump has pledged to use the Nafta talks to shrink goods trade deficits that stood at $63 billion (€56.5 billion) with Mexico and $11 billion with Canada past year, according to USA census bureau data. The agreement also encourages higher export volumes; according to the US Department of Commerce, Michigan - where the US auto industry is primarily concentrated - exported $23.5 billion in goods to Canada in 2015, and $11.7 billion in goods to Mexico.

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Mexican officials welcomed the Trump administration's announcement Thursday.

USTR will publish a notice in the Federal Register requesting public input on the direction, focus, and content of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations. "NAFTA's track record is one of economic growth and middle-class job creation", Canada's minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement. "Nine million American jobs depend on trade and investment with Canada". This is the first step toward reshaping a trade deal that became law in 1994 and changed the face of trade in North America.

"We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for USA consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers, consistent with USA priorities and the negotiating objectives established by the Congress in statute", Lighthizer said in the letter.

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