A leaked memo signals the Trump administration will seek slight changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement in upcoming negotiations with Mexico and Canada, despite President Trump’s consistent campaign rhetoric slamming NAFTA as the “single worst trade deal ever approved in this country.”
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According to the leaked letter sent by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the U.S. intents to “preserve U.S. rights and obligations” under NAFTA, “in particular, with respect to market access.”
The White House quickly denied the contents of the letter, saying they were not "accurate."
“That is not a statement of administration policy,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during a briefing on Thursday, adding that the administration’s ‘goal’ is to get President Trump’s pick for U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, confirmed. “It is not an accurate assessment of where we are at this time.”
The office of the U.S. Trade Representative told Fox News that they were unable to comment on, or verify, the authenticity of leaked letter.
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Fox News reviewed the draft letter, signed by Acting U.S. Trade Representative Stephen P. Vaughn, which says that voters wanted this administration to “rethink the issue of trade.”
“The persistent U.S. deficit in good trade with Canada and Mexico demands that this administration take swift action to revise the relationship to reflect and respond to new 21st century challenges,” the draft said.
Throughout his campaign, President Trump called for scrapping NAFTA all together, arguing that the agreement, which took effect in 1994, cost Rust Belt states like Ohio and western Pennsylvania manufacturing jobs. But the leaked document signals a shift in the administration’s intentions with NAFTA, focusing more on “improving” the deal, rather than withdrawing altogether, as suggested on the campaign trail.
“For reasons of scale alone, improving the NAFTA has the greatest potential to benefit the workers, farmers and firms of the United States,” the draft letter reads. “The NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago and while our economy and businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not.”
The draft letter suggests seeking to “level the playing field” on tax treatment, which could bring objections from both Canada and Mexico.
Despite President Trump’s explosive remarks about the deal, there is no mention in the draft letter of getting rid of the deal, or withdrawing from the agreement. The draft letter does acknowledge, however, Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership just three days into his presidency.
“We expect to obtain results that improve on previously negotiated outcomes,” the draft letter reads. “The administration is committed to negotiating and implementing trade agreements which open markets to benefit our businesses, farmers, workers, and families.”