U.S. Congress: No NAFTA deal this week, no deal on it this year

The Welland Tribune - - Canada & World - ALEXAN­DER PANETTA

WASHINGTON — The United States con­gres­sional lead­er­ship has in­di­cated that it will not deal with a vote on NAFTA this year un­less it sees the text of an agree­ment by the end of this week.

That state­ment Wed­nes­day by the top mem­ber of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives il­lus­trated the stakes for the com­ing days: ei­ther the coun­tries strike a deal now, or the process will drag into next year.

By next year, Mex­ico will have a new pres­i­dent, se­nior mem­bers of the U.S. Congress will have re­tired, midterm elec­tions will have been held and the next U.S. Congress could have dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties, adding new vari­ables into the process.

House Speaker Paul Ryan was adamant when asked whether the pro­ce­dural rules of U.S. trade law re­quire a text this week in or­der for there to be a vote by the time the cur­rent Congress wraps up in De­cem­ber.

“Yes,” Ryan replied. “This isn’t my ar­bi­trary dead­line, that’s just the way the (fast-track trade) law works.” Ryan pointed out that he’s in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with the work­ings of that 2015 law: “I wrote it.”

As it stands, the coun­tries have one ma­jor is­sue in the talks nearly set­tled: au­tos. But other ir­ri­tants like dairy, dis­pute-set­tle­ment rules, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and pub­lic con­tracts con­tinue to linger. An­other big ir­ri­tant is the five-year sun­set clause pro­posed by the U.S. Sev­eral speak­ers at a Washington event on Wed­nes­day blasted the idea. The crit­i­cism was ex­pressed in es­pe­cially blunt terms by MP Wayne Easter.

“This idea of a five-year sun­set clause is ab­so­lutely crazy,” the P.E.I. Lib­eral told a panel event near Capi­tol Hill. “I’ll call it as it is: it’s a stupid idea.”

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