The Trump administration is expected to send to Congress on Thursday morning a final letter notifying lawmakers that it intends to open trade talks with Canada and Mexico in an attempt to renegotiate NAFTA, according to an administration official and congressional aides.
The letter would come just a day after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who was sworn in Monday, concluded two days of meetings with the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees as well as separate special trade advisory groups comprised of lawmakers from both chambers. Lighthizer leaves for Vietnam today to attend a meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers.
Sending the letter triggers a 90-day consultation period that must conclude before negotiations can officially begin — a process set out under the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority legislation that gives the White House the ability to fast-track passage of the deal in Congress. The 90-day would end Aug. 16.
The administration is required to submit more detailed negotiating objectives 30 days prior to the start of the talks. An eight-page draft of the notification letter emerged in March, but congressional aides said that a final version circulated this week was only a page long, prompting some lawmakers to request more detail on some points.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who also attended the Capitol Hill meetings, told reporters late Wednesday afternoon that they had “made a lot of progress in getting toward the 90-day letter,” but he said it was up to Lighthizer to announce when it would be sent.