Background

The Trump administration’s long-awaited initiative to renegotiate NAFTA could get underway as early as mid-August now that Robert Lighthizer has been confirmed and sworn in as U.S. trade representative.

Lighthizer is expected to meet with congressional committees this week to discuss “a second draft” of the administration’s notification of its intent to launch negotiations, Inside US Trade reports. A first draft leaked in March set forth dozens of potential changes to NAFTA but administration officials have downplayed it as just one of several alternatives that have been under discussion.

Press reports speculate that the official notification letter could be finalized and sent to Congress this week or next. Since formal talks cannot begin until 90 days after that letter is sent, negotiations are not expected to begin until mid-August at the earliest. Administration officials have said they want to conclude the renegotiation by early 2018, but there is ample skepticism that can be done due to trade tensions among the three partner countries that have escalated quickly this year and the politically sensitive nature of the changes each is likely to seek.

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