By Jessica Domel
The Trump administration’s intentions and goals for renegotiating the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were released Monday.
The goals include reducing the trade deficit, improving market access for American agriculture and supporting economic growth in the United States.
“President Trump continues to fulfill his promise to renegotiate NAFTA to get a much better deal for all Americans,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who released the objectives Monday. “Too many Americans have been hurt by closed factories, exported jobs and broken political promises.”
Other objectives include ensuring the renegotiated NAFTA is fair for all Americans by improving market access in Canada and Mexico for U.S. manufacturing and services, adding a digital economy chapter and incorporating and strengthening labor and environmental obligations.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, USTR will negotiate a fair deal. America’s persistent trade imbalances, break down trade barriers and give Americans new opportunities to grow their exports,” Lighthizer said. “President Trump is reclaiming American prosperity and making our country great again.”
American negotiators will also work to eliminate unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices by state-owned enterprises and burdensome restrictions on intellectual property.
Applying the highest standards covering the broadest range of goods and services to ensure truly free trade that supports higher-paying jobs and economic growth to the U.S. is also an objective.
The objectives were released in the form of an 18-page document that outlines each goal.
Negotiating objectives for agricultural goods include:
- Maintain existing reciprocal duty-free market access for agricultural goods.
- Expand competitive market opportunities for U.S. agricultural goods in NAFTA countries, substantially equivalent to the competitive opportunities afforded foreign exports into the U.S. market, by reducing or eliminating remaining tariffs.
- Seek to eliminate non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports including discriminatory barriers, restrictive administration of tariff rate quotas, other unjustified measures that unfairly limit access to markets for U.S. goods, such as cross subsidization, price discrimination and price undercutting.
- Provide reasonable adjustment periods for U.S. import sensitive agricultural products, engaging in close consultation with Congress on such products before initiating tariff reduction negotiations.
- Promote greater regulatory compatibility to reduce burdens associated with unnecessary differences in regulation, including through regulatory cooperation where appropriate.
The release of the NAFTA objectives came on the first day allowable by law. It also happened to be the start of a week of highlighting American-made goods.
Congressman Mike Conaway of Texas said there’s no better way to highlight American products than by “charting a path to economic advancement for America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters.”
“The administration’s objectives for renegotiating NAFTA clearly demonstrate a commitment to protecting existing market access, while outlining several ways to level the playing field,” Conaway, who is also chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said. “I’m looking forward to working closely with the administration to achieve the best deal possible for American agriculture.”
The path NAFTA renegotiations follows is dictated by law.
Lighthizer officially signaled the administration’s intent to enter negotiations May 18 by sending a letter to Congress. That triggered a 90-day consultation period before negotiations could officially begin.
In that time, the USTR consulted with Congress, stakeholders and the public.
More than 12,000 comments from the public were submitted to USTR on NAFTA. More than 140 witnesses over three days spoke at public hearings on the issue.
Those comments were used, according to the USTR, to craft the objectives released Monday.
The earliest NAFTA negotiations may now begin is Wednesday, Aug. 16.