US wants Nafta deal to shrink trade deficit

The Star Early Edition - - INTERNATIONAL - Les­ley Wroughton and David Lawder

THE US has launched the first salvo in the rene­go­ti­a­tion of the 23-year-old North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (Nafta), say­ing its top pri­or­ity for the talks was shrink­ing the US trade deficit with Canada and Mex­ico.

In a much-an­tic­i­pated doc­u­ment sent to law­mak­ers on Mon­day, US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer said he would seek to re­duce the trade im­bal­ance by im­prov­ing ac­cess for US goods ex­ported to Canada and Mex­ico un­der the three-na­tion pact.

For the first time in a US trade deal, the ad­min­is­tra­tion also said it wants an “ap­pro­pri­ate” pro­vi­sion to de­ter cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion by trad­ing part­ners. The move ap­peared aimed at fu­ture trade deals rather than specif­i­cally at Canada and Mex­ico, which are not con­sid­ered cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tors.

The 17-page doc­u­ment as­serted that no coun­try should ma­nip­u­late its cur­rency ex­change rate to gain an un­fair com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, an of­ten-cited com­plaint about China in past years.

Shortly be­fore the re­lease of the doc­u­ment, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lashed out against trade deals and un­fair trade prac­tices, say­ing he would take more le­gal and reg­u­la­tory steps dur­ing the next six months to pro­tect Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Cana­dian Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Chrys­tia Free­land said the US list was “part of its in­ter­nal process”.

Nafta has quadru­pled trade among the three coun­tries, sur­pass­ing $1 tril­lion (R12.97trln) in 2015, but the US trade deficit with Mex­ico ex­ceeded $63 bil­lion last year. – Reuters

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