Cruz, colleagues want to add ‘competitiveness’ to NAFTA talks

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and two of his Republican colleagues wrote a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday proposing a new chapter for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Cruz, along with Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., recommended that Trump add a “Competitiveness” chapter in NAFTA, of which the seventh round of renegotiations between the United States, Mexico and Canada wrapped on March 5. The next round is likely to take place in Washington in early April.

On Wednesday, Trump formally asked Congress to extend his fast-track authority over trade deals for three years. Trump called the extension of trade-promotion authorities “essential” to demonstrate to foreign partners that the “administration and the Congress share a common goal when it comes to trade.”

The senators touted the plan as an unprecedented opportunity “to lock into law” major elements of the president’s economic development plan.

“To truly modernize NAFTA and re-energize the U.S. trade agenda, we need to include elements that address jobs and competitiveness head-on. That’s the paradigm shift in trade policy that you’ve consistently championed,” they told Trump. “Modernizing NAFTA in this fashion” would “put the United States in a much stronger position to forcefully confront China, which is pursuing its own domestic strategies that are often harmful to U.S. interests.”

Trade has been a big focus in Washington as the United States prepares to implement new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The Trump administration said it will decide by the end of April which countries will be spared from the steep taxes.

U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer told the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday that some countries won’t have to pay the tariffs, which take effect Friday, while they try to negotiate exemptions.

President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, saying that relying on foreign metals jeopardizes U.S. national security. He exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariffs, provided they reach an agreement to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.