Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

US Pushes for NAFTA Deal as Thursday Deadline Approaches

US Pushes for NAFTA Deal as Thursday Deadline Approaches

If deal isn't reached by deadline, might have to wait until 2019. House Speaker Paul Ryan increased the time pressure for negotiators last week by saying he'd need to be notified about a deal by May 17 to give the current Congress an opportunity to approve it.

Mexico's top trade negotiator said Tuesday that he doesn't believe an agreement between his country, the US and Canada will be reached by Thursday's informal deadline.

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The "skinny NAFTA", Ujczo says, would fall in line with the "do no harm" pleas by US agriculture, but he says not addressing key issues gives Democrats an advantage to say President Trump "did not fulfill his campaign promises to dairy farmers", and others. If a new deal is not officially endorsed by the US, Canada and Mexico by tonight, Congress will not have a chance to ratify it before this year's midterm elections.

Ryan's comments indicated that the law known as the Trade Promotion Authority provides for "fast-tracking" passage of a trade agreement negotiated by the administration by putting the deal to an up-or-down vote without amendment. "I think if we can get a deal on renewing Nafta and changing Nafta to our liking, that really would be a very good kind of foundation to move on".

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The Nafta talks are competing in a long list of Trump administration priorities.

Meanwhile, presidential elections take place in Mexico in July, and the expected victor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is a populist who could take a harder line on NAFTA. Even if the auto issues were to be resolved, negotiators would then have to address a variety of other matters on which there remain big disagreements. Lower-level Nafta talks will continue and could yield a breakthrough and a ministerial meeting, but none has been scheduled so far, according to the people.

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Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Ryan could probably find a way to postpone the deadline a few days if the countries were on the verge of an agreement, but that's not the case.

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