As expected, President Donald Trump this morning notified Congress of his intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement — a 20-year-old pact that is often credited with changing the face of the Rio Grande Valley.
In a letter signed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, members of Congress were told that Trump “intends to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding modernization” of NAFTA.
During his campaign, Trump criticized the trade deal between the three countries as the worst deal ever and his move today signifies the fulfillment of another major campaign promise.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, whose district extends to western Hidalgo County, reacted optimistically to the notification.
“Today, the administration indicated their intent to open North American trade negotiations,” Cuellar said in a statement. “I am glad to see they finally agree with me that the best path forward is to update NAFTA, not dismantle it.
NAFTA has been a big success for Texas and the entire United States. Trade from NAFTA supports more than 1.5 million Texas jobs.
I hope the administration plans to negotiate in good faith with our friends Canada and Mexico. We have an opportunity to bring the deal into the 21st century by looking at the work we did for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have been listening to business leaders and entrepreneurs on both sides of the border. I meet with the officials that manage our ports of entry, like in my home town of Laredo, to learn their needs and concerns. I have worked across the aisle with Republican colleagues like Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Kevin Brady, to defend NAFTA and prepare for a renegotiation.
If the Trump administration is sincere, I am more than ready to roll up my sleeves and work with them, to forge a deal that boosts American jobs.”
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, was also fairly optimistic about the notice.
“I welcome the Administration’s announcement that it will formally begin the process of updating NAFTA, an agreement that has transformed the U.S.-Mexico border region, the State of Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” Gonzalez said. “I call on the Administration to build on the successes of NAFTA and work with Congress to improve the agreement so it can continue to create jobs and grow our economy in South Texas and across the country.”
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who has been vocal advocating for free trade and its importance to Texas, maintained his positive pitch.
“NAFTA is vitally important to the state of Texas, with free trade adding billions of dollars to our economy annually,” Cornyn said in a statement. “We have a great opportunity to improve and modernize this landmark agreement. By updating NAFTA, we can address modern-day challenges without sacrificing economic prosperity.
“I look forward to working with the President and community leaders in Texas to ensure any updates made are in the best interest of my state, and the many farmers, ranchers, and job creators whose livelihoods depend on this vital agreement.”