US Commerce Secretary Sets NAFTA talks timetable

Global Business

Now that the U.S. has a Secretary of Commerce, discussions are moving forward to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

On Friday, Mexican Economy Minister, Ildefonso Villarreal met with Secretary Wilbur Ross.

At a press conference afterwards, Ross said he hopes to trigger the official process of renegotiation within the next few weeks. That would put negotiations a little more than 90 days away.

“What is clear is that NAFTA is a very old agreement, that does not deal with the Mexican or US economy in their current forms,” said Ross. “So at the minimum, it needs an update.”

But Ross and Villarreal disagree on the framework for talks.

“NAFTA is a trilateral agreement, and it would make a lot of sense to have a trilateral discussion,” said Villarreal.

Ross is open to parallel bilateral discussions with “symmetrical provisions.”

Asked about the pace of US scrutiny of its trade relationships around the world, Ross says the US trade agenda will be to “tidy up our own neighborhood first” before moving onto trade relationships in Asia, such as Japan.

Earlier this week, Ross met with Canadian Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland to lay the groundwork for NAFTA negotiations.