Rather than kill Nafta, Donald Trump and his advisers appear set to push for substantial changes to the treaty governing U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada, an effort that could prove difficult to negotiate and perilous to the regional economy.

The president-elect vilified the North American Free Trade Agreement during the campaign and threatened to pull the U.S. out of the trade deal—but only if Mexico doesn’t agree to substantial modifications.

The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico rose 9.5% in 2015 to $60.7 billion, while the deficit with Canada fell 57% to $15.5 billion.

Mr. Trump hasn’t released a blueprint for his new vision of Nafta, but his comments and those of his advisers suggest they want big changes. Among the likeliest would be special tariffs or other barriers to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and new taxes that would hit U.S. firms that moved production there, according to Trump advisers. His team says it may also seek to remove a Nafta provision that allows Mexican and Canadian companies to challenge U.S. regulations outside the court system.

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