The letter kicks off a required 90-day consultation period for the Trump administration, after which the president will be permitted to begin meeting with Canada and Mexico about rewriting the 23-year-old trade deal. In a statement, talks will begin no earlier than August 16, 2017.
The United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the US economy by improving USA opportunities under NAFTA. The letter also states that new provisions were needed to address "intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises".
U.S. trade with the two countries has more than tripled since Nafta went into effect in 1994, with more than $1tr goods and services exchanged each year.
"We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for USA consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers, consistent with USA priorities and the negotiating objectives established by the Congress in statute", Lighthizer said in the letter.
"Today, President Trump fulfilled one of his key promises to the American people".
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, speaking at a news conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington, said the trade pact needed updating after almost 25 years.
Late last month, Trump said that he had planned to withdraw from NAFTA, rather than try to renegotiate it.
The US president formally abandoned Washington's intent to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership - the sweeping trade agreement signed under the preceding administration previous year - just days after being sworn into office in January.
The draft letter indicated a much more conventional approach to negotiation than many had expected, given Trump's fiery rhetoric about trade deals on the campaign trail.
"For those of us who believe that USA trade policy and Nafta need fundamental reform, this notice is very disappointing", said Rep. Richard Neal of MA and Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey, two Democrats on Mr. Brady's committee, explaining they don't think potential policy changes will go far enough. "If renegotiations result in a fairer deal for American workers there is value in making the transition to a modernized NAFTA as seamless as possible". Lighthizer focused on an effort to improve and update the deal, and he did not directly criticize the trade policies of either Mexico or Canada.
Hayes said it's a better idea to renegotiate than to impose some sort of unilateral tariff, an approach that would leave USA firms vulnerable to retaliation.
In the letter to Congress, Lighthizer expresses the Trump administration's commitment to concluding the negotiations with timely and substantive results for USA consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers. Because this is what allows us to maximize the competitive potential of the region that should be the most competitive one in the world, North America, " Videgaray said.
Since NAFTA went into effect January 1, 1994, US trade north and south of the borders has more than tripled, growing more rapidly than USA trade with the rest of the world.
At a news conference Thursday at the State Department with Mexican officials and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other USA officials, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said Mexico "welcomes" the renegotiation of NAFTA.
The Council of Canadians, a citizen's advocacy group that has campaigned against NAFTA, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must make sure that "NAFTA doesn't harm the planet or our communities".