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Newly confirmed United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer issued a letter to Congress today stating that he will lead a renegotiation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. And the changes will include new provisions on intellectual property rights and digital trade.
The 18 May letter is available here [pdf].
“[W]e note that NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago, and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not. Many chapters are outdated and do not reflect modern standards,” the letter states. “For example, digital trade was in its infancy when NAFTA was enacted.”
“In addition, and consistent with the negotiating objectives in the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, our aim is that NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises.”
It adds “effective implementation and aggressive enforcement” as priorities.
The letter describes steps already taken such as consultations with Congress, but does not spell out the next steps.
[Update:] Congressional Democrats (the opposition party to President Trump) issued a letter to Lighthizer expressing disappointment with the USTR letter as it tone of simply “improving” NAFTA “does not square” with earlier bombastic statements by Trump calling it the “worst trade deal ever” among other things, and calling for drastic change in US trade policy.
[Update:] Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, issued this information: “The notification, a requirement of the Trade Promotion Authority, which allows for fast track negotiating authority, begins a 90-day deliberation period with negotiations set to begin August 16, 2017.”