MCALLEN, RGV – U.S. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez has asked stakeholders from South Texas to submit comments on the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement by Monday, June 12.
In a statement, Gonzalez, D-McAllen, encouraged stakeholders from his district to seize an opportunity that has been made available by the federal government to voice their opinions on NAFTA, a treaty he believes has been crucial for North America.
“Since its inception 25 years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been a vital part of our relationship with our North American neighbors: Canada and Mexico,” Gonzalez said.
“Recently, the Trump Administration notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA, and as part of this, they are asking for opinions from the public. South Texas’ economy is directly tied to international markets and changes to the terms of this agreement have a direct effect on our region. I encourage all stakeholders in the 15th District to take advantage of this important opportunity and make their voices heard during this renegotiation process.”
Last month, the Trump administration sent Congress a brief letter of their intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), specifically a 90-day consultation period before renegotiations begin.
In the letter, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer wrote about modernizing broad provisions in NAFTA and opening the door to renegotiation. “In addition, and consistent with the negotiating objectives in the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act, our aim is that NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises,” Lighthizer wrote in the letter.
As part of the 90-day period, the Administration published a Federal Register Notice, seeking public comments on the modernization of NAFTA, which can be submitted to the Office of U.S. Trade Representative, according to a news release issued by Congressman Gonzalez.
To submit a comment, visit regulations.gov.
Congressman Cuellar says NAFTA renegotiations similar to TPP
At a news conference held late last month at the Mission CEED Building to announce a $15 million grant UTRGV will receive through the Upward Bound Program, Cuellar and his staff handed out literature from the Congressional Research Service, a Washington DC based think-tank.
The literature focused on Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) implications for U.S. trade relations with Mexico. It outlined key provisions from TPP, such as customs and trade facilitation, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, state-owned enterprises, E-Commerce, data flows, data localization, intellectual property rights, investment, automotive rules of origin, labor and the environment.
Cuellar reaffirmed his support for TPP and NAFTA. “I support the TPP,” Cuellar said. “We have a NAFTA 2.0. The way I was selling this (during the Obama administration) was we’re gonna do a NAFTA 2.0 without opening up NAFTA.” He emphasized the similarities of TPP and the Trump administration’s letter to Congress on modernizing NAFTA.
“When the Trump Administration shifted from throw away NAFTA to ‘let’s renegotiate,’ they put out a draft letter, then they put out another letter,” Cuellar said. “But I looked at the letter and I asked my staff to give me an analysis of what Trump was looking at and what we had done with TPP, and almost to the letter, it’s the same thing. If they follow what we did on TPP then we can get this hopefully done before the year is over.”
Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he set up meetings with U.S. Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican from Katy, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, the Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Geronimo Gutierrez, and Mexican and Canadian business leaders to discuss NAFTA, in case Congress has a chance to vote on the renegotiations. Building bi-partisan support to modernize NAFTA will prove difficult with divided parties on this issue, Cuellar said. However, he said he remains confident his colleagues are pro-NAFTA.
“The key is if there’s a renegotiation, will it come back to Congress to vote,” Representative Cuellar said. “I’m the first one that I want to take a vote, but remember this is a new environment, actually a more hyper environment that we have had in Washington. And there are people that are afraid that, the left is going to say no. There’s people in my party that don’t like trade or NAFTA, and then you have got the Tea Party folks on the other side, on the right side, that don’t want to deal with this or don’t want to support this.”
Cuellar said there will likely be a push to try to do the renegotiation in such a way that it does not have to go back to Congress for a vote.
“So, even though I want to take a vote, if we don’t have to take a vote and if it’s something that’s good, then you know we’ll support that. So if it doesn’t come back to Congress and we have a say so that means that there’s going to be, especially through this 90 day notification, there’s going to be a lot of communications between Congress, the administration, and myself with the Mexicans also.”
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on TPP outlined the same provisions as the Trump notification to Congress on the provisions his administration is looking to modernize in NAFTA, Cuellar reported. He said it was no different than TPP, but it’s Trump’s way of leaving his mark.
“It’s almost the same thing, but somehow, Trump has to brand this in his own way that he did something good,” Cuellar said.