File photo taken on Aug. 31, 2016 shows that the then U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) addresses a joint press conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (L) in Mexico City, capital of Mexico. (Xinhua/Stringer)
WASHINGTON, May 18 (Xinhua) -- The Trump administration on Thursday formally notified U.S. Congress of its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), triggering a 90-day consultation period before the renegotiation can start.
"I am pleased to notify the Congress that the President intends to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico regarding modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)," United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said in a letter to congressional leaders.
"We intend to initiate negotiations with Canada and Mexico as soon as possible, but no earlier than 90 days from the date of this notice," he said.
Noting that the NAFTA was negotiated 25 years ago, Lighthizer said many chapters of the trilateral agreement are "outdated" and do not reflect modern standards. For example, "digital trade was in its infancy when NAFTA was enacted", he said.
Lighthizer said the Trump administration aims to modernize the NAFTA by including new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises.
"Moreover, establishing effective implementation and aggressive enforcement of the commitments made by our trading partners under our trade agreements is vital to the success of those agreements and should be improved in the context of NAFTA," he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has called NAFTA a "disaster" and blamed it for the hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing sector. He has also threatened to quit NAFTA so as to ramp up pressure on Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the trade agreement.
During phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Canada last month, Trump said he agreed not to terminate the NAFTA "at this time" but would proceed swiftly to renegotiate it with the other two countries.