Bloomberg News report
WASHINGTON — Canadian politicians who want North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks to start sooner rather than later will just have to wait.
That's because U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently said “real” negotiations to revamp the deal won't start until later this year.
“I would like the results tomorrow, but that is not the way the world works,” Mr. Ross said in March during an interview with Bloomberg Television, noting that reopening the pact probably will be “the latter part of this year before real negotiations get under way.”
Mr. Ross, the former auto supplier executive who was sworn in as Commerce secretary in February, said he hopes the talks don't take “substantially longer than a year.”
The secretary's comments came as U.S. partners in the agreement brace for negotiations that could grow contentious and even result in an end to one of the world's largest free-trade zones — based on comments in 2016 by then-U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump about what he perceived as NAFTA's many shortcomings.
Canada has called for talks to begin soon amid concerns that uncertainty over the outcome will stymie investments.
“People are sitting on their wallets and they're not investing as much as they would if there was more certainty,” Canada's ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, said March 6.
Meanwhile, Mexico's government has already started discussing the deal with businesses that depend heavily on NAFTA.
The Mexican peso has depreciated six per cent since Mr. Trump won the presidency, as investors bet his pledge to narrow the U.S. trade deficit with its southern neighbor will hurt the economy.
Mr. Ross said the Trump administration is having “preliminary” discussions with U.S. lawmakers about NAFTA, but hasn't given Congress official notice that it will start negotiations. Under the law that hands the president so-called fast-track authority on trade pacts, Mr. Trump must give Congress 90-days' notice that he intends to revise an existing agreement. Before starting talks, he must lay out the administration's goals and consult with key committees in the House and Senate.