New broad NAFTA goals released by Trump administration

Jul 18, 2017

The Trump administration has released its broad goals for a new North American Free Trade Agreement, but the language is mostly vague and offers just enough clues to point to potentially tough negotiations ahead.

Among other things, it calls for more exports of its dairy products, wine and grains, freer trade in telecommunications and online purchases, an overhaul of the dispute-settlement system and more access for U.S. banks abroad.

The 16-page list contains some elements that might appear contradictory or confusing. It calls for more opportunities for American suppliers for government procurement abroad, such as construction projects, but in the next breath, it insists on preserving Buy American rules that limit such rights for foreigners.

It also demands the elimination of the dispute-settlement system that has ruled in favor of Canada on softwood lumber, but it is unclear how the United States would replace Chapter 19 - which to Canada was a make-or-break issue in the original 1980s trade talks.

NAFTA talks are expected to begin on or around August 16. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she is prepared to start negotiating.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she plans to continue standing up for her province's interests. Wynne says the re-negotiation of NAFTA will be a complex task, but it is also a chance to bring the agreement into the 21st century.