Nafta Flashpoints: Issues to Watch as the Talks Unfold

Wall Street Journal, Aug 14, 2017
by William Mauldin and Jacob M. Schlesinger

The first round of negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement is scheduled to start Wednesday in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump has called the pact, which took effect in 1994, a disaster for U.S. workers, a message that resonated in manufacturing states during his campaign. But businesses that have benefited from open trade with Canada and Mexico are urging the administration not to jeopardize the complex system of commerce among the three countries that has taken root under the agreement. Here are some issues to watch.

Timing
Trump aides say the president wants to move quickly, aiming to wrap up negotiations by early next year, to avoid having the talks getting caught up in the 2018 election campaigns in Mexico and the U.S. But that is an unusually rapid timetable, as major trade negotiations are usually measured in years, not months. Trade experts say the quick deadline might be feasible if the countries were only looking at minor tweaks, but Mr. Trump’s desire for a major overhaul makes it particularly challenging.

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