Can Trump Legally Split NAFTA Into Two Deals?
As negotiations around the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continue, it appears more likely that the deal could be split into bilateral agreements, and that a deal with Mexico could come soon.
“Our immediate, most close-to-completion negotiations are with NAFTA, particularly with Mexico,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “There’s a pretty good chance that we could be on a pretty rapid track with the Mexican talks.”
President Trump indicated recently that negotiators may push to reach a deal with Mexico, then negotiate separately with Canada.
"My hope is that we will before very long have a conclusion with respect to Mexico and that as a result of that, Canada will come in and begin to compromise," said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Creating two bilateral agreements would end the traditional NAFTA agreement, however Mexico, Canada and members of the U.S. Congress want to maintain a three-way deal.
According to Jim Wiesemeyer, Pro Farmer policy analyst, four Democratic House Ways and Means Committee members sent a warning to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this week that breaking NAFTA into bilateral deals could violate the terms of trade promotion authority legislation.
“Given recent press reports, we write to remind you that your notification letter only conveyed the intention to renegotiate the trilateral NAFTA, not an intention to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement with Mexico,” according to a letter signed by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.).
The trade promotion authority, under which President Trump opened NAFTA renegotiations, gives the executive branch the ability to negotiate trade deals and submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no amendments, Wiesemeyer explained.
A bilateral deal with Mexico “would be a fundamentally different agreement from a new trilateral agreement with Mexico and Canada,” the group of lawmakers said, and would require a new and different notification to Congress in order for the deal to be approved under fast track procedures on Capitol Hill, according to Wiesemeyer.