White House of­fers draft for NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tion

Vague doc­u­ment says ad­min­is­tra­tion seeks Canada, Mex­ico talks.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - From wire ser­vices NAFTA

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has sub­mit­ted a vague set of guide­lines to Con­gress for rene­go­ti­at­ing the North Amer­i­can Free Agree­ment with Mex­ico and Canada, dis­ap­point­ing those who want a ma­jor over­haul of a decades-old trade deal that Trump de­scribed as “dis­as­ter” dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

In an eight-page draft let­ter to Con­gress, act­ing U.S. Trade Rep. Stephen Vaughn wrote that the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­tends to start talk­ing with Mex­ico and Canada about mak­ing changes to the pact, which took ef­fect in 1994. Trump and other crit­ics blame the agree­ment for wip­ing out U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs be­cause it al­lowed com­pa­nies to move fac­to­ries to Mex­ico to take ad­van­tage of lowwage la­bor.

The let­ter spells out few de­tails and sticks with broad prin­ci­ples. But it ap­pears to keep much of the ex­ist­ing agree­ment in place, in­clud­ing pri­vate tri­bunals that al­low com­pa­nies to chal­lenge na­tional laws on the grounds that they in­hibit trade — a pro­vi­sion that crit­ics say al­lows com­pa­nies to get around en­vi­ron­men­tal and la­bor laws.

The draft also con­tains some pro­vi­sions that were part of the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, a 12-coun­try Asia-Pa­cific trade agree­ment ne­go­ti­ated by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion but re­jected by Trump for pos­si­bly hurt­ing U.S. work­ers.

“We’ve got a long ways to go,” said Ohio Demo­cratic Sen. Sher­rod Brown. “Pres­i­dent Trump made big prom­ises to work­ing peo­ple in Ohio, and I’m ready to work with him to de­liver on those prom­ises or hold him ac­count­able if he doesn’t.”

NAFTA critic Lori Wal­lach, direc­tor of the left-lean­ing Pub­lic Cit­i­zen’s Global Trade Watch, called the let­ter “a punch in the face.”

If it rep­re­sents the pres­i­dent’s plan for a re­vamped NAFTA, she said, “he will have bro­ken his cam­paign prom­ises to make NAFTA bet­ter for work­ing Amer­i­cans

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