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NAFTA Negotiators Still Far Apart as House Speaker Warns of Timeline

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

Canadian and Mexican trade ministers who had spent an extended period in Washington in an effort to reach agreement on an updated NAFTA have departed the capital after they were unable to narrow gaps on key issues.

It now appears unlikely the three sides will meet a May 17 deadline set by House Speaker Paul Ryan for the administration to submit notice to Congress of its intent to sign a new deal. Ryan said if that deadline is not met a congressional vote could be pushed into 2019, when a new and potentially less amenable Congress would be seated. However, a Bloomberg News article cited analysts as saying “that a deal reached later in May or even in June could theoretically get passed.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the U.S. “is ready to continue working with Mexico and Canada to achieve needed breakthroughs” and “will continue to be fully engaged” in the talks. Lighthizer asserted that the existing agreement “is a seriously flawed trade deal” and that the Trump administration “is committed to getting the best possible trade agreement for all Americans.” He noted that the negotiations “have covered a large number of very complex issues,” including intellectual property, dairy and agriculture, de minimis levels, energy, and labor.

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