First round of NAFTA talks in August: USTR

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Washington, July 20 (IANS) The first round of new talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will take place in Washington, D.C. from August 16-20, US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer announced on Wednesday.

John Melle, assistant USTR for the Western Hemisphere, will serve as chief negotiator for the US to revamp the trilateral trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, Xinhua reported.

The upcoming trade talks immediately follows the 90-day consultation period with US Congress and the public initiated on May 18, when Lighthizer notified Congress of President Donald Trump’s intent to renegotiate NAFTA to get a better deal, according to the USTR’s Office.

The USTR’s Office on Monday released objectives for the renegotiation of the NAFTA that aims to reduce US trade deficit and includes new aspects, such as digital economy, labour and environmental obligations.

It’s the first time that USTR has included deficit reduction as a specific objective for NAFTA negotiation, reflecting the Trump administration’s determination to address the trade deficit.

Trump has called NAFTA a “disaster” and blamed it for the hollowing out of the US manufacturing sector.

He has also threatened to quit NAFTA so as to ramp up pressure on Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the trade agreement.

During phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Canada in April, Trump said he agreed not to terminate the NAFTA “at this time” but would proceed swiftly to renegotiate it with the other two countries.

US Secretary of Commerce Department Wilbur Ross said last month that he hoped renegotiation on the NAFTA could be done by the end of this year.

–IANS

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