White House notifies Congress of a new trade deal with Mexico and possibly Canada

The notification sets off a 90-day clock for the nations to sign the deal.

White House notifies Congress of a new trade deal with Mexico and possibly Canada

Washington: The White House has notified the Congress that it plans to sign a new North American trade deal with Mexico and Canada, if the latter is willing, in a timely manner, to meet the high standards for free, fair, and reciprocal trade contained therein.

In his notice to the Congress on Friday, US President Donald Trump said such a deal would replace the NAFTA and help American farmers by ensuring fairer market conditions and improved market access for United States agricultural products, and would create a more level playing field for American workers -- due in part to improved rules of origin for automobiles, trucks and other products. The notification sets off a 90-day clock for the nations to sign the deal.

Trump said it would create a more level playing field for American service industries, including the critical sector of financial services. It would provide the most robust protection against currency manipulation, he told the Congress. "I intend to enter into a trade agreement with Mexico, and with Canada, if it is willing, in a timely manner, to meet the high standards for free, fair, and reciprocal trade contained therein," Trump said in his notification to the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Describing the agreement as a great deal for the American people, he said it set a new tone for all trade agreements, proof of the high standard that his administration would require of any country entering a new trade agreement with the United States. "I intend to enter into the agreement by the end of November 2018," Trump said.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the agreement was the most advanced and of the highest standard. "Over the next few weeks, Congress and advisers from the civil society and the private sector will be able to examine the agreement. They will find it has huge benefits for our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses," he added.

"We have also been negotiating with Canada throughout this year-long process. This week, those meetings continued at all levels. The talks were constructive, and we made progress. Our officials are continuing to work towards the agreement. The USTR team will meet with Minister Freeland and her colleagues Wednesday of next week," Lighthizer said.

The Trump Administration will provide a text of the agreement in 30 days from now. "We believe we'll be on pace to do that.? And then, 60 days after that, we'll have a signing.? And then, I think -- you know, at that point, obviously we have an agreement that's been signed.? And then they can start the rest of their process," a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

According to The New York Times, talks between the United States and Canada remained deadlocked over several contentious issues, including Canada's dairy sector, its rules governing movies, books and other media, and a mechanism for settling trade disputes between the two countries.

The opposition Democratic party criticised the White House of Trump notifying Congress of his intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico without having completed negotiations with Canada. "Actually fixing NAFTA requires reaching a trade agreement with both Mexico and Canada that improves the wages, the working conditions and the well-being of America's workers and farmers," Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

"We still don't know the specifics of this trade agreement, or whether it will measure up to the claims of an administration with a terrible record of delivering," she said. While NAFTA has been largely successful for our workers and companies, the president is correct that US needs new rules to face the challenges of today's modern economy, argued House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady. 

"The President's notification today marks an important step toward that goal," he said. Brady strongly urged Canada to "step up and demonstrate" that it could take on the ambitious obligations of the agreement with the aim of concluding a modern, seamless three-way agreement.

The administration's notification of its intent to sign an agreement with Mexico is encouraging, as well as its acknowledgement that Canada will be included if it is able to meet the high standards, Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee chairman Dave Reichert said. 

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