NAFTA Talks On Indefinite Hold Leading Into U.S. Midterm Elections This Fall

Talks between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. aimed at revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are on indefinite hold and may not resume this year as midterm Congressional and Senate elections are held in America this fall.

There had been hope that the NAFTA talks would resume quickly following Mexico’s election earlier this month. But those hopes are now fading due to scheduling conflicts for the top negotiators, according media reports.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is set to go on vacation through July 22, while Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is in Europe this week. When Lighthizer returns, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo will be busy at a Latin American trade summit.

NAFTA talks reached an impasse in May after Mr. Lighthizer said Mexico’s pledge of flexibility over automotive wages and content weren’t enough. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then said that a planned meeting with President Donald Trump to potentially seal a NAFTA deal collapsed after the U.S. insisted the meeting was conditional on adding an automatic termination clause to the decades old trade agreement.

Time is now running out to meet Minister Freeland’s promise that negotiators would “make a real push over the summer.”

“Canada remains ready to meet at anytime, anywhere,” said Adam Austen, a spokesman for Minister Freeland. “We have been actively engaged in talks, particularly over the past few months and we fully expect that engagement to continue.”

Analysts had thought that once the Mexican election took place on July 1, negotiators would immediately get back to work. But current Mexican President Pena Nieto made it clear last week that he will wait for Mexico’s electoral court to validate the vote, which could be as late as September 6, before beginning the official transition.