Trump releases new objectives for NAFTA, few major changes

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The Trump administration on Tuesday released its summary of objectives for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, America’s closest trading partners.

The blueprint seeks to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA countries and preserve “Buy America” provisions as President Donald Trump works to formulate a plan that can pass in Congress.

Some objectives are aimed at appealing to Trump’s base of voters, such as the retention of rules that favor U.S. firms in government procurement.

The plan also addresses an increasing concern among lawmakers and some economists by creating an unspecified mechanism to prevent countries from manipulating their currencies for trade advantage.

Provisions intended to challenge Mexico on labor and environmental issues are also included in the blueprint.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump threatened to withdraw from NAFTA, referring to it as the “worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.”

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, the summary of objectives released Monday were similar to trade policy already established by the United States. The new blueprint does, however, contain much stronger labor standards than those in the original 1993 pact, which were added late as a side agreement in order to win congressional approval.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “The Mexican government welcomed the U.S. guidelines, and said it expects the three partners to be ready to begin formal negotiations by Aug. 16.”

Mexico’s economy ministry said in a statement that the summary of objectives “will help set out more clearly the subjects to be negotiated and the timing of the modernization process.”

Canada Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the country embraced the opportunity to improve the NAFTA deal “while defending Canada’s national interest and standing for our values.”

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