Representatives from the US, Canada, and Mexico are set to meet today in the first round of the North American trade talks. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Nafta?
Nafta stands for North American Free Trade Agreement, which first came into effect in 1994 under then-president Bill Clinton.
It aims to eliminate almost all tariffs among the three countries to allow for the free flow of goods and supplies across borders.
In 2015, trade between the three nations surpassed $1trn.
Why does Trump hate it?
Throughout his presidential campaign, US president Donald Trump regularly criticised the agreement.
This is because, under Nafta, it makes it easier for companies to move operations from the US to Mexico, which goes against Trump’s America First policy.
Jobs have been lost to Mexico because of the agreement, however, the US Chamber of Commerce says around 6m US-based jobs depend on having free trade between the three countries.
What are the talks about today?
As a result of Trump’s rhetoric throughout his campaign, he often said he was going to ditch Nafta. Later on, he said he had been convinced by Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the agreement.
The US trade representative Robert Lighthizer will be representing US interests at the talks today in Washington.
A US trade representative official told Reuters that the aim for the US was to get:
A more balanced, reciprocal trade agreement that supports high-paying jobs for Americans and grows the US economy.
This should go towards Trump’s plan of lowering the $64bn US trade deficit with Mexico.
What do Mexico and Canada think?
Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, is in Washington today for the talks. She told reporters she was looking forward to a “productive, constructive conversation” about Nafta.
The Mexican economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo, on the other hand, said:
I have always said a negotiator cannot be an optimist. He has to be a realist with a positive approach.
According to Reuters, there is more of an impetus for Mexico to get the ball rolling on a new agreement ahead of the country’s next presidential campaign which begins in February 2018.