NAFTA renegotiations resume amid Trump uncertainty

McALLEN — As the fourth round of negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement began Wednesday, President Donald Trump said it was “possible” the United States could pull out of the two-decade-old pact that has transformed the Rio Grande Valley.

Trump has continued to threaten terminating the deal despite negotiations continuing this week in Washington. A round of negotiations has already been held in the United States, Mexico and Canada over the last six weeks.

Meanwhile, Valley legislators are urging the Trump Administration to produce a constructive NAFTA renegotiation.

“Despite the non-cooperative approach to some of our administration’s policy proposals, our counterparts in Mexico and Canada are still negotiating with us in full faith,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said in a statement. “And, to their credit, our administration has made progress in limiting the most extreme aspects of President Trump’s proposals. Yet, including provisions like extremes on rules of origin, a five-year sunset expiration on any deal, and ending an effective international dispute resolution mechanism are proposals that won’t lead to a new-found era of cooperation.”

Cuellar went on to state that such proposals would “lead to greater distrust among our second and third largest trading partners.”

“ I have spoken to leaders in Canada and Mexico on multiple occasions and they have constantly reiterated one point to me: They want to work with us, but they have to be able to sell any deal to Legislatures back in their home countries,” Cuellar said in the statement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said later that he remains optimistic about a NAFTA deal but that Canadians must be “ready for anything.”

The schedule for Thursday’s negotiating included cross-border services trade, environmental issues and state-owned enterprises, according to a Reuters report.

A “sunset clause” was floated by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last month, and has not yet been disputed by U.S. negotiators. Canada and Mexico both rejected the possibility of a “sunset clause,” as did many in the U.S. business community.

“I hope the Trump Administration realizes that negotiating without foresight doesn’t just adversely affect our economy, it is a return to a panicked approach to globalization and adversely affects the jobs of the 21st Century workforce that depend heavily on American ingenuity,” Cuellar stated. “Whether we like it or not, the world is becoming more globalized. The question now becomes are we going to be the country that leads this shift? Or are we going to take a back seat because we refused to cast aside our differences with our greatest trading allies?”