WASHINGTON – The United States has officially indicated its desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, triggering a 90-day consultation window before formal talks begin.
The clock was set ticking this morning in a letter from U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he is putting Congress and trading partners on notice that “free and fair” trade is the new standard in the U.S.
He says the U.S. manufacturing industry has been decimated by NAFTA, a deal the White House considers deeply unfair.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, says renegotiating the trade pact “offers us an opportunity to determine how we can best align NAFTA to new realities – and integrate progressive, free and fair approaches to trade and investment. We are steadfastly committed to free trade in the North American region and to ensuring that the benefits of trade are enjoyed by all Canadians.”
She also defended the trade agreement: “NAFTA’s track record is one of economic growth and middle-class job creation, both here in Canada and throughout North America.”
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump called NAFTA “a disaster.”
Last month, White House aides indicated he was ready to pull out of the agreement, but within hours, the president reversed course, saying he’d seek a better deal first.
Lighthizer says the U.S. is going to give renegotiation “a good strong shot,” saying the 23-year-old agreement needs to better protect American factory workers and to reflect new technologies.
The Mexican government says it “welcomes” the opportunity to renegotiate NAFTA.
In a statement, it says: “We reaffirm our willingness to update the agreement in order to successfully address the challenges of the 21st century. Our countries deserve a modern instrument to regulate our trading and economic relationship.”
The Mexican government also says that NAFTA “has been of immense benefit to all parties. We look forward to a constructive process to increase our economic co-operation.”
With files from the Associated Press