U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has set a May 17 deadline to be notified of a new NAFTA trade deal to give the current Congress a chance of passing it, while Mexico’s top trade official on Thursday said time was running short to meet such a deadline.
Ryan, who controls legislation in the House of Representatives, set his deadline in remarks delivered on Wednesday to the Ripon Society in Washington and publicized on Thursday.
Under the “fast track” trade negotiating law, there are lengthy notification periods before U.S. President Donald Trump could sign a new North American Free Trade Agreement and before Congress could begin considering it.
Letting negotiations drag on much longer would punt consideration to a new Congress elected in November that will take office in January 2018, one that could cede more control to Democrats.
“We have to have the paper not just an agreement, we have to have the paper from USTR by May 17 for us to vote on it this year, in December, in the lame duck” session, Ryan said.
A spokeswoman for Ryan said that he was referring to a notification of intent to sign the NAFTA agreement, not necessarily the full text.
Major differences remain between the three members of NAFTA after more than eight months of largely slow-moving negotiations launched at the insistence of President Trump, who wants major changes to the 1994 pact.