The United States has officially indicated its desire to renegotiate the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, triggering a 90-day consultation window before formal talks begin.
The clock was set ticking Thursday in a letter from U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer.
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.
“With this letter, we intend to notify not just Congress, but all our trading partners, that free and fair trade is the new standard for U.S. trade deals,” the statement read.
Ross says the U.S. manufacturing industry has been decimated by NAFTA, a deal the White House considers deeply unfair.
“Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered, and countless workers left jobless. President Trump is going to change that,” he says.
“I look forward working with the president, Ambassador Lighthizer, and our counterparts from Mexico and Canada to find a solution that is both fair and beneficial for all parties.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland welcomed what was a widely anticipated development, promising to consult with Canadians on the best way forward.
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She reiterated the government’s key message on NAFTA – that it is in fact a good deal for all parties, including the U.S., where nine million American jobs are dependent on it.
“NAFTA’s track record is one of economic growth and middle-class job creation, both here in Canada and throughout North America,” Freeland said in a statement.
“We will continue to consult closely with the provinces and territories, industry, unions, civil society, think tanks, academics, indigenous peoples, women, youth and the general public.”
During the presidential campaign, 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.