WASHINGTON, D.C. – A deal on NAFTA will be reached before the end of the month, or not until 2019 says U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer.
Lighthizer will be meeting with Canadian and Mexican representatives again on May 7 before heading to China, and said he wants a deal within two weeks of that meeting, or the negotiations risk collapsing altogether.
”I’d like to get it done in a week or two after that. If not, then you start having a problem,” he told a crowd at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, reports The Canadian Press. ”I believe if we don’t get it done in the next week or two then we’re on thin ice about whether it gets done before our election.”
The U.S. midterm elections happening this November wouldn’t be the only elections possibly interfering with the negotiations. The Canadian federal election is scheduled for late October 2019, which will see candidates gearing up for the campaign up to a year in advance.
Lighthizer also said a new Congress could try to change the parts of the deal already agreed upon at the negotiating table.
Negotiations on the trade deal have been on-going for more than a year, with parties hung up on topics such as auto-parts, dairy, pharmaceuticals, and dispute resolution, among others.
While the U.S. is pushing for a deal soon, Canadian negotiators were quick to point out that a lot of work still needs to be done to overcome the hurdles before a final agreement can be reached.
The countries were hoping to have an agreement in principle announced at the Summit of the Americas in Peru in mid-April, but one didn’t materialize. Mexico’s secretary of the economy said at the time he was confident a deal could be reached in May if all the parties stayed flexible.
Once a deal is reached governments on all sides will have to approve and ratify the final product – a process that could take months.