Market News & Headlines >> Trump Starts Ball Rolling on NAFTA Redo

The Trump administration on Thursday took the first step toward renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement by formally notifying Congress of its intent to redo the 23-year old pact.  

Three days after being sworn in as the new U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer sent a letter to congressional leaders, initiating 90 days of consultations with lawmakers over possible changes to NAFTA, with negotiations to begin after Aug. 16. In the letter, Lighthizer said that NAFTA needed modernization for digital trade, labor, environment, intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises, medium and small enterprises and food safety standards. He also said that trade rule enforcement was vital to the success of NAFTA and should be improved.

In a conference call with reporters, Lighthizer said NAFTA has been successful for the U.S. agriculture, investment services and energy sectors, but not for U.S. manufacturing. "As a starting point for negotiations, we should build on what has worked in NAFTA and change and improve what has not," he said.

The governments of Canada and Mexico both signaled their willingness to come to the negotiating table. In a statement, Mexico’s government said, "We reaffirm our willingness to update the agreement in order to successfully address the challenges of the 21st century. Our countries deserve a modern instrument to regulate our trading and economic relationship."  

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign affairs minister, said renegotiating the trade pact "offers us an opportunity to determine how we can best align NAFTA to new realities — and integrate progressive, free and fair approaches to trade and investment. We are steadfastly committed to free trade in the North American region and to ensuring that the benefits of trade are enjoyed by all Canadians."