The Process for Negotiating U.S. Trade Agreements Needs a Facelift

U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the USMCA signing ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).
U.S. President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the USMCA signing ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).
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Trade negotiators typically prefer to discuss the details of agreements in secret while negotiations are ongoing, only revealing their handiwork when they are done. Even then, however, the length and legal density of trade agreements mean that only trade lawyers and industry specialists can readily figure out how a particular deal will affect ordinary citizens. For example, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as the revised NAFTA is known, has 34 chapters and is roughly 1,000 pages long, to say nothing of its hundreds of additional pages of specific tariff commitments, annexes and side letters. In the United States, the law governing ratification […]

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