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Thursday, April 23, 2009

US has no plans to reopen NAFTA

WASHINGTON: There's no need to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement to address concerns once raised by President Barack Obama, said a top US trade representative.

The US, Canada and Mexico are seeking “opportunities to strengthen the deal,” Ronald Kirk said after returning from the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, but it won't be necessary to open the deal and rewrite it.
“At an appropriate time I will be meeting with our colleagues to try to put a little form to that,” said Kirk.

Both Canada and Mexico were alarmed last year when Obama, while campaigning for president, told voters in the Midwest that he would renegotiate the trade pact as labour unions in manufacturing states accused NAFTA of killing American jobs.
The president has called for new labour and environmental safeguards.

Trade experts have said it shouldn’t be a problem to add labour and environmental provisions to the deal because they're already covered in side agreements.

Kirk, who was appointed to his position last month, said Obama discussed NAFTA in Trinidad this weekend with Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

All three men agreed to discuss ways to strengthen the deal, which are currently under formal review by US trade officials. Mexico is particularly opposed to any renegotiation since its exports have grown significantly since the deal was ratified 17 years ago.

Kirk added that the Obama administration also planned swift reviews of pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.

Source © 2009 The Canadian Press

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