After a couple of fits and starts, the White House made it official today, sending formal negotiations to Congress — and one assumes to Mexico and Canada, as well — that it's going to open up the North American Free Trade Agreement for renegotiation.
Susan Schwab, the U.S. trade representative in the George W. Bush Administration, said it’s about time. “NAFTA by trade agreement standards is an ancient trade agreement,” Schwab said.
The letter to Congress from newly confirmed Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said as much. The last time this thing was renegotiated was 25 years ago — just think about the digital economy, for one example. But Schwab, now at the University of Maryland, said, “The key is, how is it renegotiated? Is it going to be improved or is it going to be messed up?”
|Did NAFTA cost or create jobs? Both|
|What people get wrong when they talk about NAFTA|
|What if NAFTA was never created?|
Matt Gold, who teaches international trade law at Fordham, is reasonably confident and not for nothing. He is up on the mechanisms of modern news transmission. “The news today that the administration is focused on a realistic modernization of NAFTA rather than a massive overhaul that could cost U.S. sectors export markets is worth retweeting,” Gold said.
On a scale of one to 10, though, we're still in the early days. “It's pretty low,” said Marc Melitz, a professor of economics at Harvard. “I would give it a three and wait and see what is going to be in the meat of these renegotiations.”
It's going to be 90 days before anybody sits down at any negotiating tables to start hashing this thing out. But here's a little history quiz for you: Who was first president to talk about the idea of NAFTA?
Check out the answer in the video below.