NAFTA negotiations scheduled

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said arrangements for the first round of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among the United States, Canada and Mexico will take place in Washington, D.C. from August 16 – 20, 2017.

The negotiations immediately follow the 90-day consultation period with Congress and the public initiated on May 18, 2017. On that day, Lighthizer notified Congress of President Trump’s intent to renegotiate NAFTA to get a better deal for America’s workers, farmers, businesses and manufacturers.

Lighthizer said that John Melle, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere, will serve as chief negotiator for the NAFTA negotiations. In this role, Melle will be responsible for the day-to-day bargaingi at the staff level.

Since joining USTR in 1988, Melle has held a number of positions covering Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. As Assistant United States Trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere, he is responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing the United States’ trade policy for the region.

“The USW has long supported the renegotiation of NAFTA, but unfortunately, the objectives identified in the USTR’s letter do not go nearly far enough to ensure that the negative impact of NAFTA on workers in the United States, Canada and Mexico will be reversed,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard.

“The USTR seems to be backing the same priorities that have guided trade agreements since NAFTA was first negotiated, promoting corporate interests and leaving workers behind,” said Gerard. “This is not what workers who supported President Trump in the election expected: They assumed that he would renegotiate NAFTA to create better paying jobs for them and their families, rather than chasing higher profits and greater protections for corporate interests.”

“The President campaigned on promoting a new approach on trade, and the USW made clear, right after the election, that we would work with him where we could,” said Gerard. “Today’s letter makes us wonder how different his policies will really be. At the end of the day, the measure of success will be the number of manufacturing jobs – and the quality of those jobs – that are maintained and created.

“Renegotiating NAFTA is a complex undertaking,” said Gerard. “Workers’ rights need to be expanded, implemented and enforced. Currency manipulation must be addressed. Rules of origin must be dramatically changed to promote production and jobs. Coordination on trade rules should be strengthened to ensure that China and other countries engaged in unfair and illegal activities can’t use our NAFTA partner markets to undermine our interests. Investor state dispute settlement provisions must be eliminated.”

“Washington remains out of touch with working people. In the coming days, our members will fight for trade policies that advance our interests and those of our fellow workers in North America,” said Gerard. “We will hold the administration accountable to its promise to truly fix NAFTA, and if the renegotiations fail to advance the concerns of working people, we will fight like hell to defeat them.”

The USW is the largest industrial union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments and agencies.

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