WASHINGTON — According to the New York Times, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is off to a rocky start.
The Trump administration lectured Canada and Mexico on the failures of the current agreement at an opening news conference Wednesday morning Aug. 16, while behind closed doors negotiators began to seek significant concessions from America’s neighbors.
“We feel that Nafta has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement,” said Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, who is leading the United States team aiming to overhaul the 25-year-old agreement.
The Canadian and Mexican representatives were publicly pleasant, emphasizing their commitment to regional trade and the benefits resulting from a regional alliance. But both nations also say the current agreement is not tilted against the United States.
The talks that began Wednesday are the first of several scheduled rounds between now and the end of the year, when the three nations hope to conclude a deal. It is a very fast timetable in the world of international negotiations, reflecting political imperatives in all three nations more than the practical realities of an immensely complex negotiation.
Both Mexico and the United States have national elections scheduled next year.
The overarching issue is the importance of trade deficits. Americans buy more goods and services from Mexico than Mexicans buy from the United States. Last year, the difference was $55.6 billion. The Trump administration regards this number as an indictment of the current trade deal — evidence that Mexico is taking advantage of the United States.
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