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RIO GRANDE GUARDIAN: Congressman Cuellar says NAFTA renegotiations similar to TPP

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McALLEN, Texas, June 4, 2017 | comments

Congressman Cuellar says NAFTA renegotiations similar to TPP

Meanwhile, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar has given an update on NAFTA.

At a news conference held late last month at the Mission CEED Building to announce a $15 million grant UTRGV will receive through the Upward Bound Program, Cuellar and his staff handed out literature from the Congressional Research Service, a Washington DC based think-tank.

The literature focused on Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) implications for U.S. trade relations with Mexico. It outlined key provisions from TPP, such as customs and trade facilitation, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, state-owned enterprises, E-Commerce, data flows, data localization, intellectual property rights, investment, automotive rules of origin, labor and the environment.

Cuellar reaffirmed his support for TPP and NAFTA. “I support the TPP,” Cuellar said. “We have a NAFTA 2.0. The way I was selling this (during the Obama administration) was we’re gonna do a NAFTA 2.0 without opening up NAFTA.” He emphasized the similarities of TPP and the Trump administration’s letter to Congress on modernizing NAFTA.

“When the Trump Administration shifted from throw away NAFTA to ‘let’s renegotiate,’ they put out a draft letter, then they put out another letter,” Cuellar said. “But I looked at the letter and I asked my staff to give me an analysis of what Trump was looking at and what we had done with TPP, and almost to the letter, it’s the same thing. If they follow what we did on TPP then we can get this hopefully done before the year is over.”

Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he set up meetings with U.S. Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican from Katy, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, the Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Geronimo Gutierrez, and Mexican and Canadian business leaders to discuss NAFTA, in case Congress has a chance to vote on the renegotiations. Building bi-partisan support to modernize NAFTA will prove difficult with divided parties on this issue, Cuellar said. However, he said he remains confident his colleagues are pro-NAFTA.

“The key is if there’s a renegotiation, will it come back to Congress to vote,” Representative Cuellar said. “I’m the first one that I want to take a vote, but remember this is a new environment, actually a more hyper environment that we have had in Washington. And there are people that are afraid that, the left is going to say no. There’s people in my party that don’t like trade or NAFTA, and then you have got the Tea Party folks on the other side, on the right side, that don’t want to deal with this or don’t want to support this.”

Cuellar said there will likely be a push to try to do the renegotiation in such a way that it does not have to go back to Congress for a vote.

“So, even though I want to take a vote, if we don’t have to take a vote and if it’s something that’s good, then you know we’ll support that. So if it doesn’t come back to Congress and we have a say so that means that there’s going to be, especially through this 90 day notification, there’s going to be a lot of communications between Congress, the administration, and myself with the Mexicans also.”

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on TPP outlined the same provisions as the Trump notification to Congress on the provisions his administration is looking to modernize in NAFTA, Cuellar reported. He said it was no different than TPP, but it’s Trump’s way of leaving his mark.

“It’s almost the same thing, but somehow, Trump has to brand this in his own way that he did something good,” Cuellar said. 

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Tags: Trade