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Trump Administration Issues Congressional Notice of Intention to Renegotiate NAFTA

19 May

On Thursday, May 18, 2017, the Trump Administration issued official notice to Congress of its intention to begin renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on behalf of the United States with the other member countries of Canada and Mexico.  This ninety (90) days’ written notice is required under a law that mandates that the president give Congress such notice before negotiating any trade agreements.  The U.S. Senate had only eight days before, on May 10, 2017, confirmed President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, who issued this letter to Congress to begin the countdown for renegotiation.

The letter stated that a goal of the Trump Administration is that “NAFTA be modernized to include new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises.”  Representative Lighthizer stated repeatedly that any modifications to the agreement would be the result of congressional consultation.

NAFTA contains a provision that the United States, Mexico, or Canada, may withdraw from NAFTA with six (6) months’ written notice to the other parties.  While many legal scholars believe based on this provision that President Trump as the head of the executive branch may unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from this agreement, any changes to the agreement will likely require Congressional ratification.

By the broad language of the notice to Congress, it is unclear at this time whether the provisions of NAFTA relating to immigration will be affected.  Many employers and investors in the United States rely upon these immigration options to bring foreign talent and investment, respectively, from Canada and Mexico to the United States or to send employees on assignment to Canada.  Under current U.S. and Canadian immigration laws, NAFTA provides for employer sponsorship of nationals of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, who fall under a set list of over 60 professional occupations (i.e. engineers, computer systems analysts, physicians, university professors), as well as options for treaty traders and investors between Canada, Mexico, and the United States.  Although Mexican nationals benefit from these options under Canadian and U.S. immigration laws, the immigration laws of Mexico actually do not contain similar immigration benefits for Canadian and U.S. nationals due to an overhaul of their immigration system in 2011 to simplify their immigration laws to encourage investment and work in the country.

Foster will provide updates on developments in NAFTA renegotiations as impacting the immigration options available to employers, as well as treaty traders and investors, in the member countries of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.  We will make future updates available on our website at and in future Immigration Updates©.