US Demands Big Changes as NAFTA Talks Begin

'We believe NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 17, 2017 1:23 AM CDT
A man checks a shipping manifest for US manufactured parts heading to assembly plants in Mexico at Freight Dispatch Service Agency in Pharr, Texas.   (Nathan Lambrecht)
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(Newser) – The United States won't settle for cosmetic changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the top US trade negotiator said as negotiations to rework terms of the pact began Wednesday. President Trump has called the 23-year-old trade pact the "worst" in history and vowed to fix it—or withdraw from it. On the first of five days of talks, US Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer said that Trump "is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and an updating of a few chapters. We believe NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement." NAFTA did away with most barriers, including tariffs, on trade between the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Lighthizer says at least 700,000 Americans have lost their jobs because of the way NAFTA rerouted commerce. He says he wants to change the pact to require that duty-free NAFTA products contain more content made in the US. The Canadian and Mexican negotiators say NAFTA needs to be updated, but they defended it as an economic success story. "We have to take very great care in making changes," Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, told reporters. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the goal of the negotiators should be to improve the agreement to make sure "at the end of the day, we are part of the solution and not part of the problem." (Read more NAFTA stories.)

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