First round of NAFTA negotiations underway

By Sandi Soendker, Land Line editor-in-chief | Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Official negotiations for a modernization of North American Free Trade Agreement begin this week. The first round of the NAFTA discussions among the United States, Canada and Mexico will take place Aug. 16-20 in Washington, D.C.

The renegotiation process was preceded by a 90-day consultation period with Congress and the public that was first initiated on May 18. The critical and high-level first talks are scheduled for the next few days and are expected to reveal at least some of the items on the three NAFTA partners’ wish lists. Negotiations over those points are expected to continue for six months.

John Melle, assistant U.S. trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere, will serve as chief negotiator, according to an announcement from the U.S. Trade Representative office. In that role, Melle will be responsible for the day-to-day negotiations at the staff level. Melle joined the department in 1988 and has served in a number of positions covering Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. As assistant U.S. trade representative for the Western Hemisphere, he is responsible for developing, coordinating and implementing the United States’ trade policy for the region.

Earlier this summer, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative hosted a three-day public meeting in D.C. on “matters relevant to the modernization” of NAFTA. Nearly 140 witnesses from the U.S., Canada and Mexico offered suggestions. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer delivered comments on behalf of the Association’s members.

Spencer made it clear that OOIDA remains adamant that the cross-border trucking program with Mexico, which allows long-haul trucking beyond the commercial zones, should be dropped from the program.

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