No NAFTA Deal Will Be Reached By U.S. Imposed Deadline, Say Canadian Officials

Canadian officials in Ottawa say no deal on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will be reached this week in time to meet a deadline imposed by the U.S. government.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said a NAFTA deal would have to be reached by Thursday of this week in order for Congress, which is controlled by trade-friendly Republicans, to hold a vote on the revised agreement by the end of this year.

However, Canadian government officials said that no deal will be reached by Thursday, not even an “agreement in principle.” Mexico’s Economy Secretary, Ildefonso Guajardo, echoed those sentiments, saying that there will not be a deal by Thursday.

The NAFTA renegotiations are expected to now enter a period of prolonged delay because of the Mexican presidential election in July and the U.S. congressional midterm elections in November. However, the Canadian government does not appear to be in a rush for a deal to be reached.

Adam Austen, Press Secretary for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in a media statement that “the process of congressional ratification is internal to the U.S.,” not a matter for Canada. Mr. Austen also said that Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have made “good progress” during this spring’s talks, particularly on issues impacting the automotive industry.

Recent negotiations have focused almost exclusively on the complicated trade rules governing automotive manufacturing. Yet those talks have stalled over differences between the U.S. and Mexico. 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. Among them: government procurement, U.S. access to Canada’s dairy market, the system for resolving trade disputes, and the U.S. proposal for a “sunset clause” that would automatically terminate NAFTA in five years absent a new endorsement from all three countries.