USTR seeks comments, schedules hearing on NAFTA renegotiation

By Erin Voegele | May 30, 2017

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has opened a comment period and schedule a hearing to gain public input on its plan to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. Comments are due June 12 and the hearing is scheduled for June 27 in Washington, D.C.

In mid-May, the Trump administration announced plans to renegotiate NAFTA, a trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that was established in 1994 and signed by President George H.W. Bush. The agreement aimed to reduce barriers to investment and trade among the three North American countries.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently issued a statement indicating negotiations aim to support higher-paying jobs in the U.S. and to grow the U.S. economy by improving opportunities to trade with Canada and Mexico. Official negotiations can begin no earlier than Aug. 16.

Following news that the Trump administration was taking action to renegotiate NAFTA, the U.S. Grains Council and National Corn Growers Association spoke out to remind the administration how important the trade agreement is to the U.S. agricultural industry.

“NAFTA is the most critical free trade agreement on the books for U.S. grain farmers, providing open access to countries that are among our top corn, sorghum and barley export markets as well as significant and growing markets for distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and meat products made using grain,” said Chip Councell, chairman of the USGC. “This agreement has served our industry extremely well over the past 20 years, allowing us and our customers there to integrate operations and build deep relationships that both sides value.”

“Exports are one pillar of a strong farm economy, accounting for 31 percent of farmer income. Nowhere is the importance of trade stronger than right here in North America,” said Wesley Spurlock, president of the NCGA. “Since NAFTA was implemented, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled and quintupled, respectively. We export billions of dollars of corn and corn products to these countries each year.”

A notice posted in the Federal Register outlines several specific topic areas in which the USTR is seeking public input, including general and product-specific negotiating objectives for Canada and Mexico in the context modernizing NAFTA.

Written comments are due June 12 and can be filed on Regulations.gov under Docket Number USTR-2017-0006. Those who wish to testify at the June 27 hearing must submit written notification and a summary of testimony by June 12. Additional information is available on the Federal Register website.