NAFTA talks facing May 17th deadline


Round eight of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks has been a month-long process of trying to reach common ground in Washington, with the majority of the chapters yet to be closed. This week, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan informed the trade negotiators that in order for Congress to have a chance to approve a NAFTA 2.0 before the new congress is sworn in after this fall’s mid-term elections, he needs notice by May 17th.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland somewhat avoided the deadline issue with reporters on Thursday and Friday before heading home for the Mothers’ Day weekend, but many U.S. legislative experts say the deadline makes sense.

“The timeline given was appropriate,” stated former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills on CNBC’s Squawk Box .

“I think that the next battle in the U.S. is going to be whether or not the president needs Congress to accept a NAFTA 2.0,” says RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney.

On Friday morning, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) penned an editorial in the Wall Street Journal giving warning to President Trump to not attempt to blackmail congress on NAFTA approval by withdrawing from the current deal when an agreement on NAFTA 2.0 is reached. There is a theory among Washington insiders that Trump will attempt to withdraw to force a positive NAFTA 2.0 vote in congress.

So assuming the timeline is established, what about the actual agreement getting completed?

As we have reported previously, dairy access is one of the big agricultural issues not yet solved in the talks. Speaker Ryan, although retiring at the end of this year, is from Wisconsin — one of the states pushing for dairy access change.

On Agritalk on Friday, Pro Farmer’s Jim Wiesemeyer suggested “anything is possible in this town when there is a deadline.”

While the Canadian and Mexican ministers headed home for the weekend, their trade teams will continue meeting in Washington.

But May 17th is only days away. With so many items yet to be agreed on by the three countries, next week will be crunch time for NAFTA 2.0, and determining whether it could be a 2018 reality or more of a 2019 story.

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