El Paso area businesses urged to make NAFTA recommendations

Donald Trump called NAFTA the “worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.’’ So he wants to renegotiate it — or kill it altogether. So just what is NAFTA? (May 18)

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Federal officials want El Paso and Las Cruces area business operators to give their 2 cents’ worth about what needs to be fixed as well as what’s working with the North American Free Trade agreement.

The comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will be used to help the U.S. team target specific changes in the renegotiation of NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, said Robert Queen, director of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Export Assistance Center in El Paso.

"Companies can focus specifically on issues affecting their ability to trade (with Mexico and Canada). And if they can provide a solution, that will be fantastic," Queen said.

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"If something works well in the current agreement, we also would like to know that as well," he added.

Company officials also "can briefly describe their business and supply chain connections," he said.

Written comments about recommended changes or about retaining certain elements in the 23-year-old, free-trade agreement are due to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative by June 12.

Queen and other federal officials are recommending people make their comments online by going to regulations.gov and entering NAFTA in the search box. That will bring up a link to a page with NAFTA renegotiation information. At the top of the page is a "comment now" button that leads to the section where people can post comments.

The federal agency had received comments from 50 people by Wednesday, according to the website.

The treaty took effect in January 1994.

During his election campaign, President Donald Trump threatened to get rid of the NAFTA treaty because he claimed it was unfair to U.S. companies. He then decided to have it renegotiated, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to new negotiations.

President Donald Trump’s administration formally notified Congress today of its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In mid-May, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent a letter to congressional leaders to notify them that the Trump administration was beginning the process to negotiate changes to NAFTA with Mexico and Canada.

"Many (NAFTA) chapters are outdated and do not reflect modern standards," Lighthizer wrote. "For example, digital trade was in its infancy when NAFTA was enacted."

The "aim is that NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address" a list of issues, including intellectual property rights, customs procedures, labor, environment, and small to medium enterprises, according to the letter.

Lighthizer’s letter set off a 90-day consultation process, which includes getting public comments.

A hearing also will be held June 27 at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. People must submit a written notification and testimony summary to the U.S. trade office by June 12 to speak at the hearing. That notification also can be done online on the same form used to make NAFTA comments.

Vic Kolenc may be reached at 546-6421; vkolenc@elpasotimes.com; @vickolenc on Twitter.

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