Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, neighbours who trade more than $1 trillion annually, have been negotiating since August to rework this 24-year-old trade deal between them.
But NAFTA talks are moving slowly as Canada and Mexico seek to address a series of radical U.S. demands for change.
The negotiations were supposed to wrap up by end of March but are likely continue for many more months.
Steve Verheul, Canada's head NAFTA negotiator, has said that negotiations with the Americans are bogged down and, apart from some agreement on peripheral things, there's “absolutely no movement on the really tough issues.”
Trade with the U.S. has not exactly been free and easy these past few years. Since 2015, the U.S. has opened 11 investigations into Canadian exports. These actions have affected major Canadian industries such as aircraft, newsprint and softwood lumber, in addition to targeting other products including supercalendered paper, polyethylene terephthalate resin, iron mechanical drive components and welded pipe.
The Trump administration has also launched probes into aluminum, steel and solar panels. Compare this with the two investigations undertaken in the entire decade before 2015 and the term “trade wars” starts to make sense.
Where to from here?
The next round of NAFTA negotiations got underway in Mexico City on February 23. However, given past experience, this round is unlikely to result in any substantial changes. Assuming all parties agree to carry on, the next round is slated for Washington at a future date yet to be determined. After that, talks are likely to be suspended for several months while Mexico keeps busy with a presidential election (July 1) and the U.S. focuses on its midterm elections (November 6).
More waiting; more uncertainty
North American companies have no choice but to live with this unsettled situation for the next year, and possibly longer. And experts are certainly not confident a conclusion will be forthcoming or favourable to Canada.
Do you need more information about NAFTA? Are you concerned about how changes could affect you? Our Free Trade consultants are here to help.
Information provided by: NAFTA & Free Trade Dept. - Cole International