The sixth round of the negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada and Mexico will begin today (two days earlier than originally planned) in Montreal, Canada, and will continue until January 28. The three ministers – U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo are then scheduled to meet on January 29, a day later than originally scheduled.
The California Chamber of Commerce urges a quick and efficient process, and one that does not hinder ongoing trade and investment among the three NAFTA members who must be kept united in the same end-goal of a successful renegotiation.
Conclusion of Fifth Round
The fifth round of negotiations included 30 negotiating grounds and concluded on November 21, 2017. The chief negotiators reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward in all areas of the negotiations, in order to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.
In a statement U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, “While we have made progress on some of our efforts to modernize NAFTA, I remain concerned about the lack of headway. Thus far, we have seen no evidence that Canada or Mexico are willing to seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement. Absent rebalancing, we will not reach a satisfactory result. A rebalanced, updated NAFTA will promote greater prosperity for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses and strengthen the North American region as a whole. Our teams will be meeting again next month in Washington. I hope our partners will come to the table in a serious way so we can see meaningful progress before the end of the year.”
Updated NAFTA Negotiating Objectives
In late November the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released updated NAFTA negotiating objectives. According to USTR, this latest transparency action builds on USTR’s unprecedented, rigorous consultations with Congress and private sector advisory committees throughout the renegotiation process.
USTR engagement on NAFTA renegotiations includes:
- Hundreds of hours and dozens of meetings in consultations with Congress, including more than three dozen meetings directly with members of Congress.
- Continued transparency through ongoing proactive consultations with members of the private sector, labor representatives, farmers, ranchers, and non-governmental organizations, including extensive engagement with trade-related advisory committees.
- Three days of public hearings, featuring testimony from more than 140 witnesses (June 27–29, 2017).
- Careful review of more than 12,000 public comments for crafting the NAFTA objectives.
- Consultation meetings with the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, as well as meetings before the House and Senate advisory groups on negotiations.
The updated objectives reflect the goals of text proposals the United States has tabled in the NAFTA negotiations with Canada and Mexico. The objectives include increased market access for agriculture, new transparency and administrative measures, expanded investment and intellectual property objectives, and completed negotiations on the chapters of Competition and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises. The objectives retain the first-ever USTR objective for trade deficit reduction, in addition to trade distortion prevention measures.
USTR’s objectives underscore the goals of updating NAFTA to the best 21st century standards and rebalancing the benefits of the deal. Through the NAFTA renegotiations, the administration seeks freer markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth.
At the direction of the President, on May 18, 2017, Ambassador Lighthizer sent a letter notifying Congress of the administration’s intent to initiate NAFTA renegotiations. This action started the clock on a 90-day consultation period, during which extensive consultations took place with the public, the private sector, and Congress.
In accordance with the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, USTR released negotiating objectives at least 30 days before formal negotiations, which began on August 16, 2017.
To date, the NAFTA countries have held five rounds of negotiations. During these negotiating rounds, the United States has put forward substantially all of the initial U.S. text proposals, including new text in 27 chapters of NAFTA. The Trump administration said it remains committed to moving expeditiously toward a deal for fair, reciprocal trade for America’s workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.
North American Free Trade Agreement
CalChamber understands that the NAFTA was negotiated more than 25 years ago, and, while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not. We agree with the premise that the United States should seek to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the U.S. economy by improving U.S. opportunities under NAFTA.
The provisions of the NAFTA with Canada and Mexico have been beneficial for U.S. industries, agricultural enterprises, farmers, ranchers, energy companies and automakers. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must recognize the gains achieved and ensure that U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico remains strong and without interruption.
The CalChamber actively supported the creation of the NAFTA among the United States, Canada and Mexico, comprising 484.3 million people with combined annual trade with the United States being around $1.069 trillion in 2016. In 2016, goods exports exceeded $496.919 billion while goods imports totaled nearly $572.217 billion.
The CalChamber’s long-standing support for NAFTA is based upon an assessment that it serves the employment, trading and environmental interests of California and the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico, and is beneficial to the business community and society as a whole. Since 1993, trade among the three NAFTA countries has nearly quadrupled.
Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling