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