NAFTA Renegotiation Process Begins; Traders Should Act Now to Get Issues on Agenda
The Trump administration formally notified Congress May 18 of its intent to modernize NAFTA, an unprecedented effort to update an existing free trade agreement. Importers, exporters, and other affected trade community members should act quickly to take advantage of this rare opportunity by working to ensure their interests are part of the renegotiation. Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg’s more than 30 years of experience in the challenging tasks of negotiating and implementing FTAs can be a valuable asset in such an effort.
The notification from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer states that in the negotiations, which will begin no earlier than Aug. 16, the U.S. will pursue new provisions on digital trade, intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium-sized enterprises.
Other elements of NAFTA may be revisited as well. These could include rules of origin, duty deferral, tariff preference levels, and other well-known problems that have made it difficult to take advantage of the agreement’s benefits.
The notice also indicates the administration’s intent to improve the “effective implementation and aggressive enforcement” of the commitments made by Canada and Mexico.
USTR now has 60 days to publish on its website specific negotiating objectives and a description of how the updated agreement will further those objectives and benefit the U.S. It is thus vital that interested parties use the next 60 days to identify the changes that would be most beneficial to them and then advocate them before USTR, the Department of Commerce, and members of Congress in an effort to get those issues onto the renegotiation agenda. Similar efforts to engage Mexican and Canadian officials will be important as well.