A NAFTA deal may come down to political will
- The seventh round of talks to renegotiate NAFTA were the most productive to date, according to a tweet from Mexico’s Chief Negotiator Kenneth Smith Ramos.
- Three new chapters — on good regulatory practices, transparency and sanitary measures as well as industry annexes on chemicals and patents — were officially completed on Monday, according to official statements.
- The news means six of the trade agreement’s proposed 30 chapters have been finished ahead of the last scheduled round of talks, to be held in Washington, D.C. by the end of March.
The seventh round of talks promised to be a defining moment.
With a goal of reaching a deal in March 2018, negotiators needed significant progress in this round. If not, the talks would likely extend to the political seasons in Mexico, Canada and the United States – which could alter political positions altogether.
“Now our time is running very short,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement, detailing the three country’s political calendars. “All of this complicates our work. I fear that the longer we proceed, the more political headwinds we will feel.”
Skeptics will note, at this rate, no deal will be reached until at least 2019. After all, seven months since the start of talks, only one third of the text has been agreed upon. Even worse, the most controversial proposals remain unsolved.
What’s more, the potential introduction of global tariffs on steel and aluminum may further alienate Canada and Mexico. Canada’s Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland reiterated, during her own NAFTA statement, “Canada will take appropriate responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers.”
Word on the street is many of the unresolved issues remain that way because it takes political will, not technical deftness, to reach a deal. Several proposals may be on the table, but at some point, the lead negotiators must be willing to make concessions to reach common ground — and those are often done in sets.
Indeed, Ramos’ tweet celebrated the progress in the session, adding more measures were close to closing. “These things tend to converge more towards the end of a negotiation,” said the USTR.
“We are at the point where we have very important decisions to be made. If the political will is there, I am certain that we have a path to a rapid and successful conclusion,” Lighthizer added.
Hope, at least, remains as the thread of a NAFTA deal proceeds ever deeper into limbo.
- Supply Chain Dive Round 7: All signs point to even longer NAFTA talks
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