The Trump administration on Monday unveiled its highly anticipated plans for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, explicitly stating that its key objective is to reduce the trade deficit with Canada and Mexico — an aim that most economists say is misguided as the focus of a trade policy.
The release of the administration’s bargaining objectives for NAFTA sets the stage for negotiators to begin talks as early as mid-August.
The 18-page document from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, or USTR, suggests that the Trump administration is seeking a comprehensive review and wide-ranging changes to the 23-year-old pact, with a new chapter on the digital economy and other provisions and rules to modernize NAFTA.
Much of the negotiating objectives are vaguely stated, likely reflecting the administration’s reluctance to make commitments that at this stage could make things more difficult politically and at the bargaining table.
The blueprint contained none of the harsh language or threats to pull out of NAFTA that marked Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign and into his presidency. Trump has repeatedly stated that he would terminate the agreement if it could not be significantly improved in favor of American interests.
In its NAFTA negotiating road map, the administration made clear it wanted to strengthen trade remedies to secure fairer and what it called “reciprocal” trade. The USTR said it would seek to eliminate a chapter in NAFTA that allows Canada and Mexico to challenge U.S. anti-dumping duties by turning to an independent panel of arbiters.
The Trump administration also said it planned to…
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