Trump is actually trying to renegotiate NAFTA

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The notice begins a 90-day waiting period during which there will be intensive negotiations between the administration and Congress to set parameters and objectives for a NAFTA rewrite. "I am pleased to notify the Congress that the President intends to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)".

Still, Lighthizer said reforming the trade agreement fulfilled one of Trump's "key promises to the American people". After threatening to withdraw from the 1994 agreement entirely last month, Trump reconsidered in favor a re-negotiation but said he'll terminate America's involvement if talks don't go his way. Within hours, the president reversed course, saying he'd seek a better deal first. "We're going to give renegotiation a good strong shot".

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday they "made a lot of progress in getting toward the 90-day letter". But the pact encouraged American manufacturers to relocate some operations to Mexico to take advantage of cheaper labor there; so critics blame NAFTA for wiping out US factory jobs.

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The draft letter indicated a much more conventional approach to negotiation than many had expected, given Trump's fiery rhetoric about trade deals on the campaign trail.

"Our trade agreements must be judged by whether they create jobs and grow the paychecks of hard-working Americans".

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Economists generally agree that NAFTA has benefited the USA economy overall by increasing trade. But the administration so far hasn't said what changes it is proposing to bring those jobs back, and Thursday's letter provided no clues. Since NAFTA went into effect January 1, 1994, US trade north and south of the borders has more than tripled, growing more rapidly than USA trade with the rest of the world. But the president ultimately said he planned to renegotiate the agreement.

Trump's vows to scrap or renegotiate NAFTA were a centerpiece of his campaign. Earlier this month, 38 members of Congress sent a letter to Mr. Trump urging him to use his power to impose duty on Mexican sugar "in response to the serious injury Mexico causes to USA sugar producers". "NAFTA, along with other USA trading relationships, has facilitated the US position as the world's largest importer of fresh produce, importing more than 17 million tons in 2014". To get a better deal for American workers, farmers and ranchers, and businesses.

"As a starting point for negotiations, we should build on what has worked in NAFTA and change and improve what has not", Lighthizer said in a conference call with reporters.

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More details on the administration's negotiating priorities will be outlined at least 30 days before negotiations begin, Lighthizer said.

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