NAFTA Negotiators Resume Talks Under Tight Deadline

November 14, 2017

Negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement will resume on Wednesday in Mexico City, as representatives from the U.S, Canada and Mexico are racing to wrap up talks by March.

President Trump concluded his tour of five Asian countries this week after pushing trade relations there. But his top trade commerce officials will be in Mexico City beginning Wednesday, trying to find common ground with America’s two biggest export markets: Canada and Mexico.

"Their instructions simply will be to keep the ball rolling, despite the backdrop to the controversy of the proposals that were dropped in the last round," said Welles Orr, a former assistant U.S. Trade representative under George H.W. Bush and now a Washington D.C.-based international trade advisor with the law firm Miller & Chevalier.

Those controversial points? They include increasing the percentage of American parts that go into cars made in the U.S. And they also include requiring the three countries to ratify the trade agreement every five years.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian trade diplomat, said the March deadline is not very realistic.

"Perhaps it could've been done. But when you look at the U.S. objectives, you realize that it's quite profound," Robertson said.

If negotiations aren’t wrapped by then, they could be put on hold until early 2019 while Mexico has its presidential and the U.S. has its midterm elections in 2018.