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U.S. triggers 90 day countdown to NAFTA talks

President Donald Trump listens as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – The United States has officially indicated its desire to renegotiate the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement, triggering a 90-day consultation window before formal talks begin.

The clock was set ticking this morning in a letter from U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he is putting Congress and trading partners on notice that “free and fair” trade is the new standard in the U.S.

“With this letter, we intend to notify not just Congress, but all our trading partners, that free and fair trade is the new standard for U.S. trade deals,” the statement read.

He says the U.S. manufacturing industry has been decimated by NAFTA, a deal the White House considers deeply unfair.

“Since the signing of NAFTA, we have seen our manufacturing industry decimated, factories shuttered, and countless workers left jobless. President Trump is going to change that,” Ross says.

“I look forward working with the president, Ambassador Lighthizer, and our counterparts from Mexico and Canada to find a solution that is both fair and beneficial for all parties.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump called NAFTA “a disaster.”

Last month, White House aides indicated he was ready to pull out of the agreement, but within hours, the president reversed course, saying he’d seek a better deal first.

Lighthizer says the U.S. is going to give renegotiation “a good strong shot,” saying the 23-year-old agreement needs to better protect American factory workers and to reflect new technologies.

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