President Trump fulfilled one of his major campaign promises Thursday by starting the process to renegotiate NAFTA. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent formal notification by letter to Congress stating the administration intends to renegotiate the free trade pact.
Before negotiations begin with Canada and Mexico, President Trump must initiate a 90-day consultation period with lawmakers. The notification starts that consultation period, but there were few details in the letter about what changes the president wanted.
During the campaign, Trump stated he would pull the U.S. out of NAFTA if he could not negotiate a better deal. Without commenting about possible withdrawal from NAFTA, Lighthizer said, “We are going to give renegotiation a good strong shot.”
The 23-year-old trade treaty was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in December 1993 and came into effect January 1994. Trade increased dramatically between the three North American countries, mostly benefiting U.S. farmers. Critics point out the pact encouraged manufacturers to relocate their facilities outside the U.S., devastating factory jobs. Trump’s campaign promise to revise NAFTA aims to reverse that trend.
“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,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
Congress had mixed reactions to the notification with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stating, “the president’s vague NAFTA letter is a stark contrast with the aggressive promises he made to hard-working families during the campaign.”
By contrast, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady (R-Texas), is optimistic. “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,” he said.
[AP] [CTV News] [San Diego Tribune] [Photo courtesy Carolyn Kaster/AP via CBC News]