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What it’ll take to renegotiate NAFTA

by Kim Soffen and Darla Cameron (feat. Colin Robertson)

The Washington Post
May 3, 2017

The “worst trade deal” in U.S. history, as President Trump refers to the North American Free Trade Agreement, may get a shake-up soon.

The Trump administration wants to renegotiate the 23-year-old trade deal, the first of many steps standing between Trump’s promises and actual changes to the document.

The process won’t be easy. Negotiators will have to consider the wildly different political environments in Canada, the United States and Mexico. And by extension, they’ll have to navigate the myriad business interests that will lobby for favorable tweaks. Throw in the 2018 midterm elections in the United States and the presidential election in Mexico, and experts think the process could take years.

What happens if negotiations fail?

It is possible, though experts think it’s unlikely, that this process will fail — that the countries will be unable to reach a deal and NAFTA will fall apart.

“Canada is so dependent on the U.S., they simply have to have a deal,” said Philip Cross, a trade researcher at the Canadian nonpartisan Fraser Institute. And Mexico is in a similar economic position.

The United States has a wider variety of trading partners and is therefore less dependent on NAFTA, but for many U.S. industries, such as agriculture, the trade agreement is still vital to staying afloat.

But if negotiations fall apart, countries could withdraw from NAFTA with a simple six-month warning, the same process Trump came a few meetings and a U.S. map away from triggering.


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