The Hill | 18 September 2018
US business groups lay out priorities to ensure their support for NAFTA
By Vicki Needham
Leaders of three of the nation’s most powerful business groups detailed six priorities they say need to be fulfilled to earn their support for an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to get through Congress.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday saying that while they commend the efforts to modernize NAFTA, certain provisions must be included to ensure the U.S. business and agriculture community support needed to secure congressional approval of the agreement.
The three groups say Mexico and Canada must be part of the 24-year-old deal.
"It would be unacceptable to sideline Canada, our largest export market in the world," the groups wrote.
"We appreciate your ongoing efforts to reach a trilateral agreement and encourage all parties to come to a resolution."
President Trump has said he wants to keep Canada in the deal as long as they are willing to work toward an agreement.
"We’ve come to a conclusion with Mexico," Trump said on Tuesday.
"Canada has taken advantage of our country for a long time. We love Canada. We love it. Love the people of Canada," he said.
"But they are in a position that’s not a good position for Canada."
Their other priorities include calling for enforceable provisions and don’t want to dilute the investor-state dispute settlement rules in the deal.
They also want to keep an automatic sunset clause out of the agreement. Business groups argue that any sort of language establishing short-term reviews of the pact would "create significant uncertainty for investments, and therefore harm growth and job creation in the United States."
"We encourage you to pursue a new approach or — failing that — replace the "opt-in" requirement with an "opt-out” provision," they wrote.
The business groups also want to ensure that any new or higher tariffs are excluded from a final North American deal.
Trump has imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico and he has threatened Canada with tariffs on imported cars if they don’t reach a resolution on NAFTA.
The groups also want the deal to expand access for U.S. firms to government procurement markets in Canada and Mexico, and they want to ensure the deal is fully modernized in areas of intellectual property, digital trade and financial services.
The U.S. and Canada are expected to resume their high-level NAFTA talks sometime this week as a time crunch is on to reach a deal by month’s end.