According to Forbes.com, given President Donald Trump’s unorthodox approach to trade and his inflammatory rhetoric, it was never going to be easy to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. And the President’s unswerving commitment to new tariffs on steel and aluminum has cost him his top economic adviser and threatens a global trade war.
So what happens if you take these two troublesome policies and link them together? About what you would expect: each difficult situation gets significantly worse.
The NAFTA negotiations were already operating on an unrealistic timeline. Trade negotiations are no longer just about the level of tariffs that participating countries will set. They include a broad range of issues, from health regulation to investment rules. Even when there are no particularly acute disagreements, the negotiations can take years. As but one example, the U.S. involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks stretched from the fall of 2008 until talks concluded in October of 2015.
That meant that the NAFTA renegotiation talks were always going to be rushed. Mexico has elections coming up this summer and the Mexicans were clear from the start that it would be politically difficult to conduct negotiations as those elections drew close. The initial target was to conclude the talks by the end of calendar 2017. That got pushed back when no agreement was reached.