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19 October 2017, 12:40 | Katrina Lee
Lighthizer: 'Historic' NAFTA 2.0 could win labor and business support, lead to 'paradigm change' in Congress
President Donald Trump's musings about ending the accord have sparked public warnings from USA lawmakers and the private sector about the perils of dismantling a decades-long trade deal that has helped the region's trade balloon to $1.2 trillion annually.
The Congressional Research Service says in a report issued last week that there is no clear path for Trump to reduce the USA trade deficit with Mexico, one of his major complaints and an overarching priority for revamping a pact he has repeatedly threatened to tear up. "To that end, the parties plan on having a longer inter-sessional period before the next negotiating round to assess all proposals", US Trade Representative Robert Lightizer told reporters on Tuesday while reading from a joint statement.
To cut the trade deficit with Mexico, the United States is demanding that more auto production be made in America before qualifying for NAFTA benefits.
The fifth round will be held in Mexico from November 17-21.
Lightizer was joined by the leaders of the other two delegations, Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which encompasses more than 200 retailers, manufacturers and suppliers, added that Nafta's downfall would incur "massive" disruptions in agriculture and manufacturing as well as higher costs for USA consumers.
Lighthizer said he is unsympathetic to the business community's complaints about ending the dispute settlement process that is in NAFTA and about the proposal to include a five-year sunset clause.
"We have seen no indication that our partners are willing to make any changes that will result in a rebalancing". That situation, he said, has resulted in the large USA trade deficit with Mexico. We of course have a $500 billion trade deficit.
But companies have built complicated supply chains that straddle NAFTA borders, taking advantage of each country's strengths - such as cheap labor in Mexico and skilled workers and proximity to customers in the United States and Canada.
"Proposed new USA national content requirements would severely disrupt the supply chains, make North American producers and manufactures less competitive relative to imports from outside the region and put in jeopardy tens of thousands of jobs across North America", Freeland said.
Lighthizer did not provide any details on what the United States has proposed on agriculture, but he did say at one point that agriculture is always a hard part of trade negotiations due to both economic and social issues.
"The United States shares strong economic ties with Mexico and Canada".
The outcome could also damage the North American security relationship, straining cooperation to combat money laundering, terrorism, the drug trade and undocumented migrants coming through Central America, the report said.
"The tradeoff is: either we improve NAFTA or we trade with new rules, those of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but trade with the United States will continue (either way)", Peña Nieto said.
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