Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on March 7 said the Trump administration is in the “early stages” of the process set out in the Trade Promotion Authority law to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, while also saying an expected development in the process to start the renegotiation will happen “very shortly.”
“The president made the announcement some weeks ago and we are now in the early stages of the TPA process, the fast-track approval process,” Ross said during an interview with CNBC. “So we hope there will be some more announcements relating to the progress there of the process, not of actual negotiations yet, very shortly.”
TPA, which would allow the administration to submit legislation changing NAFTA to Congress for an up or down vote without amendments, would apply if the administration notifies and consults with Congress before renegotiating the deal. This includes providing Congress with a 90-day notice of intent to negotiate.
But there is a disparity on whether the administration has fulfilled its consultation requirements, according to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who sits on the Senate Finance Committee. According to Brown, the administration has not yet met its congressional consultation requirement, despite White House adviser Peter Navarro meeting with the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means committees on Feb. 15.
“They seemed to count it as a consultation when Navarro came in and spoke to us, but they’re saying nothing about it,” Brown told Inside U.S. Trade on March 7.
Navarro “kind of said” to lawmakers that his meeting constituted a consultation as required under TPA, Brown said, “but I don’t know that any of us counted it,” he continued. “I don’t think it counted.”
According to Ways & Means ranking member Richard Neal (D-MA), Ross told the committee that he planned on triggering the renegotiation process in mid-March.
Ross also emphasized that renegotiating NAFTA would be beneficial to Mexico without specifying what areas the renegotiation would cover.
“Fixing NAFTA is not all going to be burdens on Mexico,” he said. “There are going to be some very good aspects of it that come out and we’re just trying to deal with the marginal benefit to the U.S. of correcting some of the original flaws in NAFTA and even more so, building upon it to create more opportunities for American business and reduction in our trade deficit.” — Brett Fortnam (firstname.lastname@example.org) with Jack Caporal (email@example.com)