How missing NAFTA deadline could have an impact on talks

By Yves Faguy May 17, 201817 May 2018

How missing NAFTA deadline could have an impact on talks


U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a warning that today is the deadline for notifying Congress of a deal that could be voted on in 2018, before midterm elections in November.  Indications from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are that a deal – even a pared-down version – isn’t likely to be reached so soon.

Why the deadline matters

On December 1, 2018, Mexico will have a new president – possibly the leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who has opened up a wide lead in the polls, and who might want to push his own amendments with a new team of negotiators.  Also, the midterm elections in the U.S. could produce a very different Congress, controlled by Democrats, which might be inclined to pursue new trade priorities. Simon Lester noted in a couple of recent posts that the Democrats’ stand on trade policy could be even more protectionist than the Trump administration’s, or then again not:

Some months ago a group of Senate Democrats including New York's Charles Schumer put together a trade platform premised on outdoing Donald Trump as a protectionist (I blogged on that here back last August). 

In a recent candidates' debate in Houston, the Democratic primary finalists for multicultural urban District 07 were asked to address trade […]. Laura Moser, a Texas-born and -bred writer and activist whose campaign has attracted national and international attention, set out a different Democratic vision than Schumer & company. Moser said she believes in trade agreements and while noting that NAFTA has hurt some Americans she freely admitted it's benefited others, including in her own region of the country. She even supports TPP, stressing the importance of an accord in the Pacific region, but criticizes the existing agreement as giving inadequate consideration to environment and labor laws, while important parts have been drafted to suit entrenched corporate interests.

Those are positions that Team Trudeau might welcome, though how NAFTA negotiations move forward with new players in the mix is really anyone’s guess.

What to worry about in the short term

The Trump administration will have to soon decide on whether to extend a June 1 deadline for new tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum to take effect on imports from Canada and Mexico.

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