Aug. 17, 2017 – United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer began the first round of negotiations for NAFTA modernization on Wednesday, August 16, 2017. The first round of the negotiations between the United States, Canada and Mexico will take place in Washington, D.C. from August 16 – 20, 2017.
“I want to be clear that [President Trump] is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters,” said Lighthizer, who was open about the fact the he completely shares President Trumps views on NAFTA. He outlined several priorities when he announced the first round of negotiations yesterday. These include:
“These are just a few examples of key priorities of the United States,” Lighthizer said. “My hope is that together we will produce a result which moves us to freer markets, fairer and balanced trade and stronger ties between our three countries.”
The negotiations immediately follow the 90-day consultation period with Congress and the public initiated on May 23, 2017.
During that consultation period, the World Trade Center Arkansas conveyed the fact that both NAFTA and NAFTA modernization benefits Arkansas. The Center met multiple times with the Office of the United States Trade Representative and even publicly testified before the USTR on Arkansas’ success within the NAFTA framework.
“Arkansas is unique among other states due to its trade surplus with Canada and Mexico,” said Melvin Torres, Director of Western Hemisphere Trade for the World Trade Center Arkansas. “In fact, Arkansas exports hundreds of millions of dollars more in goods and services to Canada and Mexico than we import from them.”
Canada and Mexico are Arkansas’ biggest trading partners and Mexico is the largest importer of rice that is grown and exported from Arkansas.
“We have seen an incredible 700 percent increase in our exports to Mexico since NAFTA began,” Torres said. “Furthermore, exports from Arkansas to Mexico are growing 3.6 times faster than exports to any other country.”
The World Trade Center Arkansas also met multiple times with the Mexican and Canadian Embassies as well the U.S. Department of Commerce NAFTA offices during the modernization process prior to the negotiations.
“We welcome NAFTA modernization because it will benefit Arkansas companies,” Torres said. “By testifying to the United States Trade Representative with specific examples from comments submitted by Arkansas companies, we could communicate the fact that Arkansas can be used as a model of success for trade with Canada and Mexico during the negotiations.
“We are optimistic that Arkansas companies along with our technology and agriculture industries, will benefit from a modernization and further grow our economy,” Torres said.
The mission of the World Trade Center Arkansas is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. The Center fulfills the University of Arkansas’ land grant mission to serve the state as a resource and a catalyst. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the Center on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.