NAFTA Renegotiations Set to Conclude by Year’s End, in “Very Aggressive Calendar”
Eric Lendrum, Politics Contributor
In the latest major development of the Trump presidency, one of the President’s key promises on free trade - renegotiation of NAFTA - has just been limited to a 21-week timetable.
According to a Reuters report citing two anonymous Mexican officials, the three members of the North American Free Trade Agreement - the United States, Canada, and Mexico - have agreed to hold seven rounds of talks, with each talk taking place three weeks after the last one. For a free trade deal of this scale, that is a rather fast period of time for renegotiation, and was described by one of the sources as a “very aggressive calendar.”
The officials admitted that part of the reason for the fast pace was so that the renegotiations could be wrapped up before Mexico’s 2018 presidential election. The talks will take place in various locations between all three countries, and are set to start on August 16, according to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. By the 21-week timetable described by the two officials, this would place the end of the talks roughly either at the very end of December 2017, or the beginning of January 2018. While both U.S. and Canadian officials have denied that an exact timetable has been set for the ending of the talks, Lighthizer has said that he hopes the talks can finish before the end of 2017.
The idea of a free-trade agreement between the three North American countries was first proposed by President Reagan, although no specific deal came to fruition during his tenure. After negotiations on several different versions of the deal under both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton, NAFTA was passed on a bipartisan basis in Congress and ratified by President Clinton in 1993. During his campaign, President Trump criticized NAFTA and other free trade deals, zeroing in on NAFTA as “one of the worst trade deals” he had ever seen. His opposition to NAFTA and other such deals, claiming that they harmed American manufacturing industries, was a key part of his appeal to working-class voters in the Rust Belt, which ultimately carried him to victory in November of last year.
The President has maintained his focus on renegotiating or ending free trade deals that he deemed detrimental to the interests of the United States; he withdrew the country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership three days after he took office, and also withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord on June 1. Although the President has not acted as swiftly on NAFTA, he has continued to emphasize it as one of his top priorities, pushing either for a renegotiated version that more greatly benefits the United States, or a complete withdrawal altogether.
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