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Canada's vague, unimaginative and not all that progressive priorities for NAFTA renegotiations

17 Août 2017

The first round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations got underway Wednesday in Washington, D.C. In his opening comments, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer recognized that farmers and ranchers have seen markets grow under NAFTA, while the agreement has "failed" for countless of other Americans.

One risk in the talks for Mexico is if the Trump administration succeeds in tightening existing NAFTA rules restricting the use of foreign-made parts in products Mexico manufactures and exports to the U.S.

President Trump, running as candidate Trump, declared on many occasions that NAFTA was the worst trade deal ever negotiated and that on his first day in office he would tear it up.

Trump says the US has lost "millions" of manufacturing jobs to Mexico due to cheaper labor costs.

"I want to be clear, [President Donald Trump] is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters", Lighthizer said.

The United States drew a hard line for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement on Wednesday, demanding major concessions aimed at slashing trade deficits with Mexico and Canada and boosting USA content for autos. Negotiations began when all three countries tabled texts that one US official said would form the backbone of the next agreement.

Recently 32 House Republicans sent a letter to the US trade representative, agreeing an update should happen but noting that they are "also keenly aware of the potential for damage to USA farmers, businesses, manufacturers, service providers and workers if long-standing agreements are suddenly vacated". Rules of origin, particularly on autos and auto parts, must require higher NAFTA content and substantial United States content.

Leaders from the U.S., Canada and Mexico on Wednesday officially began renegotiating NAFTA, the three-nation trade pact, in Washington.

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Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland suggested on Monday that Ottawa could walk away from the talks if the USA insisted on scrapping the mechanism to resolve trade disputes between the three Nafta countries.

Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said the recognition of agriculture's positive benefits under the current NAFTA "very much signaled that agriculture was a shining example" of how NAFTA can work. "The agreement should have effective provisions to guard against currency manipulation".

As the name suggests, NAFTA is a trilateral free trade agreement.

Then there's time. Trump wants swift negotiations without too much USA concession.

Mexico has said its NAFTA goals are free access for goods and services, greater labor market integration and a strengthening of energy security. "Canada buys more from the USA than China, the United Kingdom and Japan combined".

Meanwhile, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Mexico believes NAFTA has been a strong success for both parties and the issue is not "tearing apart what ... works" but rather strengthening the successful parts of the agreement.

"We need a transformative process that will lead to the kinds of wage and environmental protections that will help workers in our country", Casey said.

Canada's vague, unimaginative and not all that progressive priorities for NAFTA renegotiations