Trump administration lays groundwork for NAFTA negotiations

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The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In May, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer notified Congress that President Trump intends to renegotiate the deal. The notice started a 90-day waiting period before U.S. negotiators can officially sit down with their counterparts in Mexico and Canada.

On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Ray Starling, a special assistant to the president, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue met in recent days with the ministers of agriculture from Mexico and Canada as part of a “relationship building exercise” before official negotiations begin.

“I think that has been productive and we look forward to seeing what their readout is on that,” Starling said.

Furthermore, Starling said Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross was “close to wrapping up work” on a deal with Mexico to address competitive advantages the country has over the U.S. in sugar production.

“He thought getting that done was important before we sat down at the table to talk about NAFTA,” Starling said.

Finally, the administration announced this week the nomination of Greg Doud to serve as Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“I think we’re still at a preliminary stage at this point, but certainly things are falling into place to get serious about doing that work,” Starling said. 

“Yesterday, secretary Ross commented that it’s a goal of his to move that along as much as possible during this calendar year and I think he also made the passing comment that the calendar is not our friend. … His point is that we can’t get started too soon. This is obviously something the president is interested in. It’s a priority for us and we want to move forward quickly.”


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