Freshly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross are traveling to Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon to start talks with key lawmakers about the Trump administration's intentions to sit down with Canada and Mexico and reopen NAFTA.
Those talks are the official first steps for the administration to meet the requirements under the trade promotion authority for Lighthizer to send the letter to Congress notifying it of the administration's intention to renegotiate NAFTA.
First stop in their official Capitol discussions is a closed-door meeting with the Senate Finance Committee. Orrin Hatch, the committee's chairman, will also convene Senate Advisory Group on Negotiations, or SAGON, talks as well.
"The meetings will give members the opportunity to meet directly with Ambassador Lighthizer and discuss how Congress can work with the administration to advance a strong pro-growth trade agenda, including ideas to modernize NAFTA," said Julia Lawless, communications director of the Senate Finance Committee.
On Wednesday, Lighthizer and Ross will be meeting with members of the House in a closed-door morning session with the Ways and Means Committee. "Chairman Brady is looking forward to meeting with Ambassador Lighthizer this week with our committee members and HAGON members. These conversations will be an important opportunity to discuss the NAFTA process and other objectives," said Emily Schillinger, communications director of Ways and Means Committee. Both Lighthizer and Ross will also be meeting with House Advisory Group on Negotiations, or HAGON.
Once the letter of intent is delivered to Congress, a countdown clock of a 90-day period of consultation with Congress on NAFTA begins. These congressional discussions are completed before officially starting talks with NAFTA partners.
Ross, Lighthizer and White House trade and industrial policy advisor Peter Navarro are the three key leaders on trade policy. During this time frame, the USTR is required by law to publish objectives for the negotiations at least 30 days before formal trade negotiations begin.
President Donald Trump has said if negotiations do not go his way he'll pull out of the pact. Trump has called NAFTA one of the "worst" trade deals in history and said it has killed millions of jobs.
If the letter was delivered to Congress this week, according to the required 90-day period of consultation, the earliest talks could begin between the U.S., Canada and Mexico would be late August.