CEOs Urge Restraint in NAFTA Renegotiation

A group of top chief executives says the White House should seek to modernize, not overhaul, the trade agreement.
Matthew HellerMay 29, 2017
CEOs Urge Restraint in NAFTA Renegotiation

As the Trump administration prepares to begin renegotiating NAFTA as early as August, executives of companies with global trade ties are lobbying the president to modernize rather than overhaul the agreement.

In a letter to the White House, the CEOs of Cargill, Union Pacific, VF Corp., Chubb and other firms warned against harming a pact that they say supports 14 million American jobs and a trading volume of more than $3.5 billion daily.

“We encourage the administration to proceed quickly and trilaterally,” they said. “Uncertainty about the future of America’s terms of trade with Canada and Mexico would suppress economic growth and may cause political reactions that undermine U.S. exporters.”

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last week sent Congress a letter of intent, triggering the 90-day period that has to elapse before NAFTA renegotiations can start.

The agreement, he said, needed to be improved in the areas of intellectual property rights, digital trade, state-owned enterprises, customs procedures, food safety, workers’ rights and environmental protection. He also indicated that that the administration would seek to preserve the current structure of NAFTA.

Lighthizer’s comments belied the rhetoric of Trump, who has called NAFTA one of the “worst” trade deals in history and said it has killed millions of jobs. But as Fox Business reports, the trade official “didn’t make any guarantees and said many issues would be handled bilaterally.”

The executives who signed the letter to Trump include David McLennan, the CEO of agribusiness giant Cargill, which benefits from duty-free agricultural sales to Mexico and Canada and generates more than half of its sales from outside the U.S. “When trade is restricted, economic engines weaken on both sides,” he said recently.

Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg, another signatory, told Fox Business that leaving the future of NAFTA open creates an environment of uncertainty. To bring it to a thoughtful conclusion among all three parties is important.”