U.S. Calls for ‘Much Better Deal’ in Nafta Overhaul Plan

WASHINGTON — Claiming it wants to negotiate a “much better deal for all Americans,” the Trump administration on Monday revealed its most detailed list of objectives to date for an overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

The United States Trade Representative said a revamped Nafta must include provisions to eliminate unfair subsidies and give the United States broader authority to crack down on an influx of cheap products.

Trade is a centerpiece of President Trump’s economic agenda, and the renegotiation of Nafta has been a pillar of his promise to revive American manufacturing. “Too many Americans have been hurt by closed factories, exported jobs and broken political promises,” said Robert Lighthizer, Mr. Trump’s trade representative.

The 17-page document the administration sent to Congress echoes Mr. Trump’s tough talk on trade by making the reduction of America’s trade deficit with its neighbors its top priority. However, it also builds off the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that Mr. Trump abandoned when he took office, borrowing concepts about labor regulations and the environment.

“It is very consistent with the president’s stance on liking trade barriers, liking protectionism,” Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said of the report. “This makes Nafta in many respects less of a free-trade agreement.”

Some of the Trump administration’s objectives appear to send a signal to countries beyond Canada and Mexico. The report delves into concerns about subsidized state-owned enterprises and currency manipulation that are more applicable to countries such as China than they are to the United States’ neighbors. The Trump administration, which prefers bilateral deals over sprawling multicountry trade agreements, has said that a new Nafta will most likely serve as a template for its pacts with other countries.

Several of the objectives could be sticking points in negotiations, such as the elimination of the Chapter 19 dispute settlement panel that allows Canada and Mexico to appeal duties imposed by the United States. Another potentially contentious proposal would scrap the global safeguard exclusion that limits the ability of the United States to impose import restrictions on Canada and Mexico.

The Trump administration has given conflicting signals on how it plans to deal with Nafta, a 23-year-old trade agreement that Mr. Trump assailed as an economic scourge on the campaign trail last year.

Upon taking office, Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and suggested that he was considering pulling out of Nafta, which he had billed as the “worst trade deal.”

But in March, a draft letter circulated to members of Congress about the administration’s intentions suggested that Mr. Trump was planning to take a more measured approach to modernizing Nafta. Republicans in Congress and business lobbyists who had been worried about Mr. Trump’s protectionist tendencies were left feeling optimistic.

Then, a month later, Mr. Trump signaled through advisers that he was preparing to scrap the pact entirely. After the peso plummeted in response to the news and Mr. Trump’s faction of globalist advisers staged a frantic intervention, he quickly reversed course again.

“It is my privilege to bring Nafta up-to-date through renegotiation,” Mr. Trump said in a late-night statement. “I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better.”

The publication of the objectives begins a 30-day period before formal talks among the United States, Canada and Mexico can officially begin. Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce, said last month that he hopes a new deal is reached by January. Congress must approve any major changes to Nafta that Mr. Trump decides to make.

Trade has been one of the few issues that has made Democrats hopeful they could work with Mr. Trump and that has made Republicans particularly wary.

On Monday, some Democrats were disappointed in the list of objectives and felt that the Trump administration was not going far enough.

“It is surprising that in key areas the Trump administration is seeking outcomes that were achieved in the T.P.P., which the president said was a bad agreement,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said that she was concerned by the vagueness of the report and that the objectives did not directly buttress Mr. Trump’s “Buy American” vision.

“If you were expecting a transformation of trade policy, whether or not that is their plan for Nafta renegotiations, that’s not what this document lays out,” Ms. Wallach said.

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