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Can Trump Change or Kill Nafta on your own? It's complicated



As a US sales representative

Robert Beacon

The North American Free Trade Agreement is to be changed immediately, as the most important questions will be asked at the end of next week: Could the President?

Donald Trump

Make changes to Nafta without a congress? Would he try it?

The answers are complex. According to the United States Constitution, the President has the right to negotiate contracts. But Congress sets tariffs, and Congress often agrees to outsource much of this power to the executive, particularly to the US Trade Representative's office. These powers are normally granted on the condition that the administration obtains and obtains the approval of the Congress and adheres to the rules of procedure.

President Donald Trump did not hide his impatience with the rules. "We have these provisions, which require a long wait, you have to notify the congress, and after you have informed the congress, you have to get certified," Trump said in a speech a year ago. "The whole thing is ridiculous."

Mr. Trump has also called for the legal authority to withdraw from Nafta, a threat he has repeatedly made as part of his negotiating tactic. Many members of the congress say that the president has no such authority.

The president's team adhered to the procedural rules during the negotiations, Congress officials said. While the President may make minor changes to the Agreement on its own, any change to US law would require the approval of Congress. It is unclear whether the recent update by Nafta, which is negotiating with Canadian and Mexican officials behind closed doors, will lead to a deal that would require a change in federal law, people say after the talks.

The Trump's Biggest Priority Tightening Nafta's auto trading regulations in a way that is hoped to boost American employment in the industry does not require any changes to US law and could do without Congress will be adopted, experts say. The government's proposal to reduce or eliminate investor-state dispute settlement, which is popular with international companies, would also require no congressional approval. But his move to end another dispute settlement system in Nafta's Chapter 1

9 would change US law, according to a group of companies following the talks.

The Trump government has not yet set out its detailed plan to implement changes Commenting on Nafta suggests that an agreement will soon be reached through a process known as the "Fast Track" or "Trade Promotion Authority" could be achieved through the Congress his trading plans. Congress gave the president this right in 2015. It expires in July 2021 if Congress does not block an automatic extension until July.

Some congressional and economic advisers say they are analyzing the possibility that Messrs. Trump and Lighthizer might scale the ambition of the negotiations to reach a quick agreement that will not be approved by Congress before the Mexican presidential election and US midterm elections got to.

The US law, which Nafta implemented more than two decades ago, unilaterally announces a presidential area announcing changes to tariffs and other Nafta rules under certain circumstances. But Mr. Trump, in the opinion of the Congressional Research Service, would have to consult with the main congressional committees on these changes.

A change of Nafta without congress-related cooperation poses risks for the administration. Republican committee members have rejected some of Mr. Trump's trade priorities. And it could alienate democratic legislators who could support Trump's trade policies and create opposition to the president's party during the 2018 midterm elections.

Letter to William Mauldin at william.mauldin@wsj.com


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