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U.S. Trade Representative releases NAFTA objectives

Objectives include deficit reduction, adding digital economy chapter and strengthening labor obligations.

The U.S. Office of Trade Representative has released its negotiating objectives of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

USTR has included deficit reduction as a specific objective for the NAFTA negotiations. Since NAFTA was implemented in 1994, the U.S. bilateral goods trade balance with Mexico has gone from a $1.3 billion surplus to a $64 billion deficit in 2016. Market access issues have arisen in Canada with respect to dairy, wine, grain and other products — barriers that the current agreement is unequipped to address. 

The negotiating objectives also include adding a digital economy chapter and incorporating and strengthening labor and environment obligations that are currently in NAFTA side agreements. Additionally, among other objectives, the administration will work to eliminate unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices by state owned enterprises, and burdensome restrictions on intellectual property. 

The negotiating objectives aim to apply the highest standards covering the broadest possible range of goods and services to ensure truly free and fair trade that supports higher-paying jobs and economic growth in the United States.

“Too many Americans have been hurt by closed factories, exported jobs, and broken political promises," said Ambassador Robert Lighthizer. "Under President Trump’s leadership, USTR will negotiate a fair deal. We will seek to address America’s persistent trade imbalances, break down trade barriers, and give Americans new opportunities to grow their exports.”

On May 18, 2017, Lighthizer sent a letter notifying Congress of the administration’s intent to initiate NAFTA renegotiations. 

Since then, USTR has been conducting extensive consultations with Congress, stakeholders, and the public at large. USTR sought public comments, received more than 12,000 responses, and heard directly from over 140 witnesses over three days of public hearings.

Further, these objectives reflect the negotiating standards established by Congress in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA), which requires that USTR release objectives at least 30 days prior to formal negotiations. Negotiations will begin no earlier than Aug. 16, 2017. 

Source: U.S. Trade Representative

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