It and other business associations have been active in extolling the benefits of NAFTA to Americans to counter threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to dump the 23 year-old accord that binds the United States, Mexico and Canada.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Mr. Lighthizer said the administration will start talks with Canada and Mexico as soon as 90 days from Thursday, in line with congressional rules on negotiating trade deals subject to expedited consideration by lawmakers. After that, talks with Canada and Mexico can begin.
The federal government tried pitching the idea of simple changes by pointing out repeatedly in the weeks after Trump's election that NAFTA has already undergone a dozen tweaks over time - all without involving Congress.
The latest apparent movement on NAFTA comes after Robert Lighthizer was sworn in Monday as US trade representative. We are ready ... to work together with both the governments of the USA and Canada to make our trade agreement better.
Mexican trade team spokesman Felipe Vasante says his group is very concerned about a redo of NAFTA.
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The trade agreement has been a lightning rod for criticism since it was being negotiated in the early 1990s.
The Trump administration rang the opening bell Thursday with a letter to the key congressional power-brokers who must now be consulted as USA negotiators prepare their list of priorities.
Officials are required to consult with Congress and deliver a letter informing Congress at least 90 days before formal talks can begin with Mexico and Canada if any final deal is to get expedited consideration on Capitol Hill. Mexico, which imported $17.9 billion in USA food, was the third-largest market.
"I have confidence that Robert Lighthizer will work to pursue a trade agenda that is coherent, constructive, and will deliver for American workers, and I will support his nomination", said Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who serves as the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee.
'Relatively Successful'Lighthizer noted that NAFTA has been "relatively successful" for certain sectors of the USA economy, such as agriculture, investment services and energy.
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Late last month he signed an executive order that required the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and the USTR, in consultation with several federal agencies, to "conduct comprehensive performance reviews" of all of the U.S. free trade agreements and "renegotiate or terminate" policies that the Administration believes are harmful to the US. The president is still facing backlash over his firing of FBI director James Comey, as well as fallout from a memo Comey wrote in which he said Trump tried to shut down an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Starting with her one-on-one meeting with Lighthizer in February, Heitkamp has tirelessly reinforced to Lighthizer-and to other administration officials-that trade agreements should level the playing field for farmers, ranchers, and workers, while also holding other countries accountable when they cheat on trade deals.
Lighthizer was sworn in Monday, clearing the way for the administration to seek an overhaul of Nafta.
"If the Trump administration is honest, I am more than ready to roll up my sleeves and work with them, to forge a deal that boosts American jobs", Cuellar added. "We have a great opportunity to improve and modernize this landmark agreement".
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