Gonzalez, administration seeks NAFTA input from South Texas

McALLEN — U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, is asking stakeholders in South Texas to give input on the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Comments can be submitted through the website of the U.S. Trade Representative. Comments are due by June 12. A public hearing is scheduled for June 27 in Washington.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer notified Congress on May 18 of the Trump Administration’s intent to renegotiate the two-decade old pact. The notification was the first formal step in the renegotiation process, which triggered a 90-day clock before Mexico, Canada and the United States can sit down for renegotiation talks. Those talks could begin as early as mid-August.

“Since its inception 25 years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been a vital part of our relationship with our North American neighbors: Canada and Mexico,” Gonzalez said in a statement set to be released on Wednesday. “Recently, the Trump Administration notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA, and as part of this, they are asking for opinions from the public. South Texas’ economy is directly tied to international markets and changes to the terms of this agreement have a direct effect on our region. I encourage all stakeholders in the 15th District to take advantage of this important opportunity and make their voices heard during this renegotiation process.”

As part of the 90-day process, the Trump administration has published a Federal Register notice to hear from the public. The administration is seeking comments on general and product-specific negotiating objectives, as well as input on specific provisions, according to the notice. Following the comment period, a public hearing will be held at the U.S. International Trade Commission, Gonzalez’s office said.

Comments are being sought on 17 topics that will contribute to crafting the direction, focus and content of NAFTA renegotiation. Those topics include: digital trade, intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Following the comment due date of June 12, a public hearing is scheduled for June 27 at 9 a.m. in the Main Hearing Room at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington. Anybody wishing to testify at the hearing must provide written notification of their intention by June 12.