There’s Still a Path Forward for NAFTA Renegotiations

Wendy Cutler in The Globe and Mail

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators in Washington, D.C.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Minister of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo (L to R) participate in the fourth round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations in Washington, D.C. on October 17, 2017. (State Department Photo/Public Domain)

ASPI Vice President Wendy Cutler wrote an op-ed about the future of the NAFTA renegotiations, and their implications for Asia. The following is an excerpt from the article which was originally published in The Globe and Mail.

The renegotiations of the North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA) are approaching a fish or cut-bait moment. The talks to update the 23-year-old trade deal between Canada, Mexico and the United States, launched in August, have become remarkably difficult.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's frustration was in plain view after the latest round of negotiations, when he questioned the willingness of Canada and Mexico to "seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement."

It didn't have to be this way. At the outset of trade talks, while negotiators are still relatively eager and optimistic, there is usually ample room to put forth proposals, narrow differences and make progress.

The NAFTA negotiations also had a head start. Canada, Mexico and the United States all participated in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks and shared much common ground on issues such as competition policy, digital trade, labour and small and medium-size enterprises.

It's true that over time any trade negotiation gets tougher as the euphoria wears off and reality sets in. Negotiators tire of each other, and face mounting criticism at home. Their ability to continue to make progress is stymied. Even issues that should be non-controversial become contentious.

Read the full article. 

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