NAFTA Countdown Begins

The Trump Administration has started the process of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.).  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer sent a letter to Congress triggering a 90 day countdown.   Negotiations could begin in August.

According to the letter, the US would look to update sections to deal with digital trade; something that was only in its infancy when the deal was first signed in 1990.  According to the CBC, it specifies the need for sections to “address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs, procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labour, environment and small and medium enterprises.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the letter notifies trading partners, and Congress.  “Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry, decimate factories, shuttered and countless workers left jobless.  President Trump is going to change that,” Ross said in a statement.  The renegotiation of NAFTA was part of President Trump’s election platform.

Canada has signalled its readiness to update the trade pact.  Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the letter placed Canada at a crossroads.  “We are at an important juncture that offers us an opportunity to determine how we can best align NAFTA to its new realities- and integrate progressive, free and fair approaches to trade and investment,” she said.  The Trudeau government has begun consultations with all parties concerned.

Wynne Vows to fight for Ontario’s Interests

Ontario Premier greeted the news with a statement of her own.  She announced her province has begun working with state capitals.  “We have retained legal experts, experts  in legislative processes and trade advisors to support  our ongoing efforts led by Ministers Chan, and Duguid.”  Ontario exports to 33 different states.

The province has gone as far as to name former International Trade Minister Jim Peterson as a Chief Negotiator for Softwood Lumber talks.  The US began assessing duties on softwood lumber earlier this month.

Negotiations aren’t expected to begin before August 16.  Lightizer doesn’t have to announce American objectives until 30 days before negotiations begin.  Approximately $2 billion in trade, and services move between Canada, and the U.S. daily.