At NAFTA Kickoff, US, Mexico And Canada Already Show Signs Of Disagreement

Effigy of Donald Trump

In lambasting the deal, Lighthizer struck a far more negative tone than his foreign counterparts.

President Trump, running as candidate Trump, declared on many occasions that NAFTA was the worst trade deal ever negotiated and that on his first day in office he would tear it up. But also on the line are trillions of dollars of trade that flow through the North American economy.

"We do not want them to use us as a trading tool and to do harm to the agricultural sector in all three countries", the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Zippy Duvall, told a news conference on Wednesday.

Trade deficits, however, are likely to remain at the heart of the negotiations.

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They delivered their message after US trade czar Robert Lighthizer's announced the Trump administration would seek major changes to the deal - not mere tweaks. But while Canadian and Mexican representatives emphasized the benefits of the trade alliance in their opening statements, Lighthizer said that NAFTA had "fundamentally failed" many Americans. Among the USA goals he listed were reducing substantial trade deficits, manufacturing more goods in North America and improving standards for workers.

And, of course, to proceed into the renegotiation, he has had to seek the permission of Congress through the Trade Promotion Authority so we have a pretty clear sense of what the Americans are looking for.

Weighing heavily over the talks is the 2018 Mexico presidential election.

"There's considerable political risk in reopening these negotiations", said Cécile Shea, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former diplomat. Wednesday's kickoff is the culmination of a process that began in May, when Lighthizer formally notified Congress that the administration would renegotiate the deal "to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the US economy". He says a USA exit from NAFTA could cause recessions in Canada and Mexico.

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Trade analysts noted that the administration has few negotiators with previous NAFTA experience.

But Canada and Mexico may have some leverage because the two countries are still signed on to the Trans Pacific Partnership while the Trump administration has pulled out, Dade says. The deficit with Canada just a year ago, however, was around $11 billion. "So it's up to the USA negotiators to make concessions for us to have American business catch up".

If the american declaration gives the taste of what is to come, the negotiators from canada and mexico may have a lot of trouble, Washington had stated frankly that there should be improvements to " major", because free trade has made innumerable victims.

In her opening statement, Freeland took a swipe at the US fixation on cutting its trade deficits, saying: "Canada does not view trade surpluses or deficits as a primary measure of whether a trading relationship works".

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