U.S. demands big NAFTA changes, setting stage for tough talks

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WASHINGTON — The top U.S. trade negotiator says that the United States won’t settle for cosmetic changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement as negotiations to rework terms of the pact began.

President Donald Trump has called the 23-year-old trade pact the “worst” in history.

In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer said that Trump “is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and an updating of a few chapters. We believe NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement.”

Lighthizer’s comments suggest the negotiations could prove contentious. The Canadian and Mexican negotiators defended NAFTA as an economic success story but acknowledged it needs to be updated to reflect economic and technological changes.