U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told senators on Thursday that “hopefully, we are in the finishing stages” of negotiating the new NAFTA. At the same time, he said Japan is balking at writing a trade agreement with the United States and the administration has yet to start talks with other Pacific Rim nations as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Sen. Jeff Flake, from trade-sensitive Arizona, said he had secured commitments from the Trump administration to avoid “ill-advised seasonal or regional” triggers on food imports as part of the new NAFTA. In return, he has released his “hold” on the White House nominee for chief U.S. agricultural trade negotiator.
On a bipartisan 82-14 vote, senators confirmed trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative, helping to complete President Trump's team of officials responsible for revamping U.S. trade agreements worldwide. The vote could open the door to renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
President Trump made renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement a top issue during his election campaign, but he has moved slowly on it since taking office. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the administration is waiting for Senate confirmation of Robert Lighthizer as U.S. trade representative before it starts the clock running for discussions with Canada and Mexico.