Those on TN “visas” and the employers who rely on them can breathe a sigh of relief— for now. While President Donald Trump has issued his recent notice to Congress of his intent to begin the process of renegotiating NAFTA, TNs have not as yet emerged as a focus of the discussions on the NAFTA renegotiation.
Trump made numerous critical statements about NAFTA on the campaign trail, calling it a “disaster” for its effects on U.S. workers and companies, despite the fact that states that voted for Trump send more exports to Mexico and Canada than those that voted for Hillary Clinton. On April 27th, Trump announced that, after conversations with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, he was convinced to at least try to renegotiate NAFTA before scrapping it. Since then, Robert Lighthizer was confirmed as the 18th U.S. Trade Representative and he has taken the first step in that renegotiation process.
In a short letter, Lighthizer gave official 90-day notice to Congress that the Administration intends to renegotiate the NAFTA treaty. During the 90-day period, Lighthizer, not known as a doctrinaire free-trade proponent, will consult with Congress to define the United States negotiating position. Negotiations could begin in mid-August.
NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago. According to Lighthizer, NAFTA has benefited some U.S. economic sectors, including agriculture, investment services, and energy, but needs to more directly address digital commerce, intellectual property, labor, and environmental matters. These gaps were addressed by the Obama Administration in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which included the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Trump pulled out of the TPP on the first day of his Administration. Lighthizer hopes to retain NAFTA as a three-way deal, but Trump has made it clear that if the negotiations do not go his way, pulling out, and/or negotiating bi-lateral agreements are still on the table.
Canada and Mexico are both happy to renegotiate NAFTA, to update it and to address their own concerns about certain provisions. Tom Donohue, President and Chief Executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stated, “If we all do our jobs well, the result will be a stronger agreement that spurs economic growth and job creation, not just in the United States, but across North America.” But there are members of Congress, such as Representatives Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), who are disappointed in this renegotiation tactic because they believe NAFTA “needs fundamental reform.”