NAFTA Negotiations to Continue Past Congressional Deadline

May 17, 2018
WASHINGTON, DC -- Today is an important date for those who want a “NAFTA 2.0” or a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement.  May 17 is the date that House Speaker Paul Ryan has said is the deadline for the President to inform Congress of his intent to sign a new NAFTA in order for the current Congress to consider and vote on the new agreement.  As of publication of today’s Daily, the President has not notified Congress.
In exchange for requiring an up or down vote on trade agreements by Congress, U.S. law sets multiple deadlines for the President to notify Congress of his intent to sign an agreement and to provide a copy before signature.  There’s also a mandated study of the economic impact of the agreement before Congress acts.  

“Backing up from these statutory requirements and looking at the legislative calendar has led many to conclude that now is the time for the President to notify Congress if approval is to happen this year,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings.  
Key issues holding up an agreement reportedly include U.S. proposals on rules of origin to increase North American content for duty-free treatment of automobiles; that NAFTA sunset every five years unless specifically renewed by the parties; and making NAFTA’s investor-state dispute settlement provision optional for each country.  The United States is also seeking improved access for U.S. dairy in Canada, which is restricted by Canada’s domestic supply management system.
The timeline for modernization is unclear if the current congressional window is missed.  U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer issued a statement which said in part, “The United States is ready to continue working with Mexico and Canada to achieve needed breakthroughs on these (negotiating) objectives (as outlined by Congress in the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority).  Our teams will continue to be fully engaged.”  

“USA Rice supports Ambassador Lighthizer’s commitment to continued U.S. engagement,” said Cummings.  “NAFTA made Mexico the number one export destination for U.S. rice and solidified Canada’s position among the top five, and we support any improvements that improve the efficiency of rice trade with our neighbors.”

Absent congressional approval of a new agreement, the existing NAFTA remains in place.