US Revises NAFTA Goals to Reflect Demands in Talks

The Trump administration on Friday revised its negotiating objectives for revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement, largely to reflect the demands it has made in NAFTA talks on agriculture, intellectual property and investment.

The revised objectives are now in line with U.S. proposals to eliminate Canada’s import tariffs on dairy, poultry and egg products and to allow more protections for seasonal U.S. produce that is sensitive to imports from Mexico.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said it is keeping in place most of its NAFTA objectives, first published in July, including a first-ever goal of reducing U.S. trade deficits.

USTR Robert Lighthizer said that the revisions are aimed at keeping Americans informed about what the Trump administration is seeking in a revised NAFTA.

“If we are able to achieve these objectives, we will both modernize and rebalance NAFTA to better serve the interests of our workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” Lighthizer said in a statement.

The new objectives on investment and intellectual property rights add considerable detail, partly aimed at reflecting existing demands and partly aimed at setting precedents for future trade agreements.

On investment, the objectives now seek to provide “meaningful procedures for resolving investment disputes, while ensuring the protection of U.S. sovereignty and the maintenance of strong U.S. domestic industries.”

U.S. negotiators are seeking to allow countries to “opt in” to an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and to eliminate panels that arbitrate anti-dumping disputes between NAFTA countries.

But the new objectives for NAFTA investment rules also seek to prohibit forced technology transfers and technology localization, a goal that seems more aimed at addressing U.S. complaints about Chinese investment practices.

On intellectual property, the new objectives specify that the USTR will seek U.S. equivalent standards on trademarks, patents, copyrights with some appropriate exceptions, undisclosed test or other data and trade secrets.

The wording on rules of origin goals was also slightly revised to conform with the U.S. demand that NAFTA-built cars and trucks contain 50 percent U.S.-specific content.


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