NAFTA input set to begin

May 21, 2017

Two Texas congressmen on Friday boarded the same airplane home from Washington, one with a direct line of communication to those involved in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, the other from the border who has seen his hometown boom thanks to the pact.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, under which NAFTA falls. The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction of NAFTA on the Senate side.

Brady shared a plane to his home state with Laredo Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose district stretches to western HidalgoCounty. Cuellar has seen his hometown benefit in large part due to NAFTA.

Now, the agreement is being primed to be “modernized.” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent a letter to Congress on Thursday expressing the Trump administration’s intent to renegotiate the two-decade old agreement. That letter triggered a 90-day clock before the U.S., Mexico and Canada can sit down to begin renegotiations.

“The 90-day clock sort of reaffirms a sense of urgency around the negotiation and a desire to get something fairly concrete by the end of the year,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, a Brownsville native. “I think that’s unlikely but a worthy objective.”

Garza added he believes the three countries likely will be starting the negotiations looking at the positives, and “updating the agreement should be a healthy, constructive exercise.”

A business group — as well as other Rio GrandeValley officials — will visit Washington for an RGV Day the week of June 12 to meet with members of the Texas delegation in Congress. The group also will meet with business people in Washington and trade stakeholders.

“We’re in a prime position to engage in this conversation, primarily because of the economic impact our region drives at the national level,” said Sergio Contreras, president of the RGV Partnership. “We live it. We understand the importance and growth that legitimate trade has on our community.”

A more complete version of this story is available on www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com