NAFTA notification to Congress could come as early as Thursday

A North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation notification could be sent to Congress as early as Thursday, according to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar’s office.

The House Ways and Means Committee told Cuellar’s office that “this notification will be made as soon as tomorrow, but may be delayed until Friday,” Cuellar’s office said in an email Wednesday.

The notification must be sent to Congress by the U.S. Trade Representative expressing intent to renegotiate NAFTA before U.S. officials can sit down with Mexico and Canada to renegotiate the two decade-old pact. Once the notification is sent to Congress, a 90-day clock begins before officials from the three countries can begin renegotiation. If the notification is indeed sent to Congress Thursday or Friday, renegotiation could begin by mid-August.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer began work Monday after completing a long nomination and confirmation process. Lighthizer met with the Senate Finance Committee, according to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. He posted a picture to Twitter on Wednesday of the meeting with Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Cornyn’s office confirmed the meeting took place.

“Glad to hear USTR Lighthizer and Sec Ross say their approach to NAFTA renegotiating is ‘first do no harm,’” Cornyn wrote on Twitter.

Lighthizer and Ross were also expected to meet with the House Ways and Means Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands.

Cuellar set up a meeting between Brady and the Texas Democratic delegation on Wednesday, and the NAFTA notification was discussed, Cuellar’s office said.

An eight-page draft of the letter circulated in March, though the details were vague.

“I take this letter as good news, even if it is vague,” Cuellar said at the time. “No straight forward position but the tone is much more optimistic.

“It’s declaring intent to renegotiate, and some general positive goals,” Cuellar added. “I am open-minded and ready to dive into the details.”

The letter was expected to be adjusted based on feedback from Congress and stakeholders.