The House

Upcoming elections threaten NAFTA timeline

Upcoming elections threaten to disrupt progress made on North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations, according to members of Canada's advisory council on the trade talks.
Elections in Mexico and the U.S. could undo progress made at the negotiating table. (Canadian Press)
Listen11:03

Upcoming elections threaten to disrupt progress made on North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations, according to members of Canada's advisory council on the trade talks.

The upcoming presidential election in Mexico and midterms in the U.S. will make the next round of NAFTA talks "highly politicized," Rona Ambrose, a member of Canada's NAFTA advisory council, told The House.

"There's some push behind the scenes to get this agreement finalized before the Mexican election."

Certain chapters, like the original U.S. auto sector demands of having 50 per cent American content in all vehicles sold, have proven to be sticking points during the negotiations.

But the U.S. is reportedly caving on that demand, and floating the idea of waiving the content requirements if Canada and Mexico set standards to boost wages for workers.

Donald Trump will be looking for ways to show voters he's been a tough negotiator on NAFTA, Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, told The House.

However, as one issue begins to settle, another aspect of the agreement could grow to be an issue.

All three countries were originally aligned when it came to investments in energy, but Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, one of the leading candidates in Mexico's upcoming presidential election, has openly expressed his disapproval of the current energy reforms.

It will be key, Ambrose said, to solidify those energy frameworks before the election.

If he is elected, it could throw that industry's NAFTA future into question.

Though much of the focus will turn to Mexico, the U.S. trade team is still proving to be difficult in the eyes of Canadian negotiators.

New to the table is the potential introduction of steel and aluminum tariffs if a deal isn't signed in principle by May 1.

"We're hoping the Americans are going to be pragmatic," Yussuff said.

He added there are some serious hurdles to a quick deal, but things are moving in "the right direction."

Canada will have to be prepared to respond if that May deadline passes, Ambrose added, along with preparing for the potential shifts that will come with elections.

"There is a lot of risk all of a sudden for Canadians… in ways that we might not have thought were there."

The next round of talks are expected to be held in Washington in April.

The twists and turns never end. In the ongoing quest to negotiate a new NAFTA, the U.S. has laid down its latest trade demand: an agreement IN PRINCIPLE must be signed by May 1st or Canada and Mexico could face those hefty tariffs on steel. The only problem? Canada's top negotiator says he has no idea what a deal "in principle" means. Or whether a deal is even achievable in the near future. Former interim leader of the Conservative Party, Rona Ambrose, and the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, Hassan Yussuf, two members of Canada's advisory council on NAFTA, join us 11:03