Business groups raise alarms about Trump's direction on trade

Business groups raise alarms about Trump's direction on trade
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Business groups are raising alarms about the Trump administration’s proposals to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the fourth round of talks started on Wednesday.

The feud between powerful business groups and the White House continued to ramp up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable among several groups that took their case to Capitol Hill over concerns that President Trump’s threats to withdraw from the 23-year-old pact combined with a handful of controversial proposals could torpedo the deal.

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"The companies represented at the Business Roundtable are very concerned with reports that the Trump administration will weaken NAFTA with drastic changes that would disrupt supply chains that have greatly benefited U.S. businesses, workers and consumers over the last two decades," Joshua Bolten, president and CEO of the group, wrote in a blog post. 

“Even worse, withdrawal from NAFTA would put at stake millions of American jobs in every sector of the U.S. economy, the competitiveness of U.S.-produced goods and services, and our country’s standing as a global economic leader,” Bolten said.

Trump renewed his threat to terminate the NAFTA during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday. 

In lieu of an agreement, Trump said he could envision the United States pursuing separate deals with Mexico and Canada, a move that would be a nonstarter with business groups and among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The Chamber has called some of the White House’s proposals "highly dangerous" that could lead the business and agriculture community to oppose a NAFTA agreement if they are included.

"Withdrawing from or weakening trade agreements like NAFTA would only benefit our competitors in Europe and Asia, including China," Bolten said.

The business groups have been reliable supporters of trade and have urged past and present administrations to expand U.S. reach of global trade through ambitious agreements.

But they have found themselves battling the White House over a number of proposed provisions that include a sunset clause that would require the United States, Mexico and Canada to vote periodically to keep NAFTA going or risk the deal's expiration. 

This led the Chamber, Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the Coalition of Services Industries, the American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council to spearhead a trip to Capitol Hill to discuss their concerns about the White House's proposals.

As NAFTA talks continue, the groups are aiming to keep momentum going while concerns abound that the discussions may be stalling.

On Thursday, the American International Automobile Dealers Association said proposed changes to NAFTA would likely increase the cost of vehicles.

"While NAFTA modernization is important, we urge caution in considering the jobs that might be lost and the prices American consumers may incur as the result of changes to key aspects of the agreement," Cody Lusk, the group's president, said in a statement.

The United States is pushing for automobiles to include more U.S.-made parts as well as more content from Canada and Mexico overall.