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Q&A with Eric Farnsworth: Will NAFTA Survive 2018?

Negotiators Ildefonso Guajardo, Chrystia Freeland, and Robert Lighthizer. (AP)

Negotiators Ildefonso Guajardo, Chrystia Freeland, and Robert Lighthizer. (AP)

February 01, 2018

[...] If a new agreement is going to be reached, a lot of progress still needs to be made. Mexico and Canada are still quite far away from U.S. positions on many key issues. The biggest problem for now is that time is running out. Mexico will hold a presidential election in the summer of this year. If the talks drag on past March candidates in Mexico will be able to argue that the current administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto should put the talks on hold until after the election. In July, Mexico’s new president-elect may argue that the resumption of talks should be postponed until he or she takes office in December. For now, however, there does seem to be some tepid optimism that NAFTA will survive 2018.

“For the next round, we will still have substantial challenges to overcome. Yet the progress made so far puts us on the right track to create landing zones to conclude the negotiation soon,” [Economy Minister Ildefonso] Guajardo explained.

To hear more about what we can expect from the ongoing NAFTA talks I reached out to Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.

Nathaniel Parish Flannery: How much will Trump's border wall talk affect the NAFTA talks?

Eric Farnsworth: The president’s oft-stated desire for a wall between the United States and Mexico, whether real or virtual, whether contiguous along the entire border or only partial, must be seen in the context of US domestic politics and is not a part of NAFTA discussions. Senior Mexican officials have repeatedly rejected the topic as one for negotiation and sought to separate the two issues. Nonetheless, the symbolism of such rhetoric from Washington strengthens support for those on the Mexican side who may already distrust the United States and who are looking to diversify trade and investment relations, seeing the United States as a less reliable partner attempting to restrict rather than build the relationship. So much of what underlies successful negotiations is based on trust among the parties and the belief, based on concrete indicators, that an agreement once struck will endure.

Read the full Q&A at Forbes.com.