The United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced a set of U.S. trade objectives for a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Monday. The objectives seem to offer a bit to everyone, trade skeptics and trade advocates alike. To do so, they use strong yet vague rhetoric on protectionists’ priorities, like the trade deficit, while promising to maintain and expand market access for U.S. farmers, manufacturers and the broader business community.

Beyond the general messaging, the more than 100 detailed objectives underscore the breadth, complexity and challenges of the work ahead, especially if the negotiators are to reach basic agreement by the end of the year and before Mexico enters into its 2018 presidential election campaign season.

The negotiations are slated to begin in mid-August. On the positive side, the U.S. objectives demonstrate much common ground with its North American partners. Many of the topics and mechanisms proposed — including labor, environment, state-owned enterprises and trade in digital products — have essentially already been agreed upon by all three countries through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. The more that can be rescued from the TPP text, the more likely it is that the NAFTA negotiations will be able to be concluded quickly and successfully.

Since the renegotiation was announced, the business and agricultural communities have vigorously stressed the importance of North American trade to their bottom line. Canada, Mexico and the U.S. trade some $1.24 trillion a year: $3.3 billion a day. That trade supports an estimated 13 million U.S. jobs and makes Canada and Mexico our two largest export markets in the world.

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