WASHINGTON -- The auto sector is not specifically mentioned in the Trump administration’s broad list of objectives for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The document mentions "farmers, ranchers, service providers, and other businesses" and promises to "grow their exports and reclaim American prosperity."
The list released late Monday does, however, include four points about rules of origin, something that affects the North American auto industry.
Currently, 62.5 per cent of the makeup of vehicles and 60 per cent of automotive parts must be made within the NAFTA region to receive duty-free status in the United States, Canada and Mexico, the trio of countries.
On the topic of rules of origin, the United States wants to:
- Update and strengthen the rules of origin, as necessary, to ensure that the benefits of NAFTA go to products genuinely made in the United States and North America.
- Ensure the rules of origin incentivize the sourcing of goods and materials from the United States and North America.
- Establish origin procedures that streamline the certification and verification of rules of origin and that promote strong enforcement, including with respect to textiles.
- Promote cooperation with NAFTA countries to ensure that goods that meet the rules of origin receive NAFTA benefits, prevent duty evasion, and combat customs offences.
United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has called the current rules of origin obsolete and outdated and said they will be a major focus during renegotiations. He, the United States and unions in Canada and the United States want that percentage to be increased in hopes that it will create more manufacturing jobs in North America.
The United States also said Monday that it wants: More access for U.S. agriculture, telecommunications, and construction exports; to maintain some Buy American exemptions; new currency-manipulation rules; addition of elements from now-dormant TPP and overhaul of the dispute-settlement system.
The document says that since NAFTA came into effect, "trade deficits have exploded, thousands of factories have closed."
"Too many Americans have been hurt by closed factories, exported jobs, and broken political promises. Under President Trump's leadership, (our office) will negotiate a fair deal... President Trump is reclaiming American prosperity and making our country great again," U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.
Monday's release came as no surprise to the Canadian government.
The Prime Minister's Office was in touch with the White House — sources say it was given a heads-up in advance of the release. Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was prepared to start negotiating.
"We welcome the opportunity to modernize NAFTA to reflect new realities — and to integrate progressive, free, and fair approaches to trade and investment," she said in a statement.
"When negotiations begin, we will be ready to work with our partners to modernize NAFTA, while defending Canada's national interest and standing up for our values. Canada is the top customer of the United States. Canada buys more goods from the U.S. than China, Japan, and the United Kingdom combined."
NAFTA talks are expected to begin on or around Aug. 16.
The Canadian government will not produce a similar public list. It's not a requirement under Canadian law, as it is in the United States.
American law requires that the administration publish a list of its objectives entering trade negotiations. The law also requires this list be posted online 30 days in advance.
The Canadian Press and Greg Layson of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.