Former U.S. ambassador to Mexico: Jobs depend on success of NAFTA renegotiation

USA TODAYThere is little doubt that the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, needs to be updated and improved. This despite the fact that virtually every independent economist who studied the results has called its first 23 years of existence a success in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

The first round of negotiations to modernize NAFTA finished after five days of discussions in Washington. The second round began in Mexico City on friday. As is usual in such negotiations, nothing of substance has yet been accomplished. The United States main negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, put forth several objectives reflecting the rhetoric of President Donald Trump. Chief among those was that the U.S. trade deficit with NAFTA countries must be closed and that should be accomplished through changes in NAFTA. The Canadian and Mexican negotiators mostly listened and asked clarifying questions during that first round.

If the ambitious timetable to complete negotiations by the end of this year or very early in 2018 is to be achieved, the second round and subsequent five rounds scheduled for the remainder of 2017 must discuss and produce substantive decisions starting with the talks in Mexico City. That’s possible — but difficult. The good news is that the negotiators from all three countries are seasoned professionals who are committed to results. …



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