Wilbur Ross: NAFTA renegotiation may take until next year

Key Points
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says NAFTA renegotiation could slide into next year.
  • He notes potential problems with that timing, including elections in Mexico and the United States.
  • President Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed the trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
Wilbur Ross: Don't know if NAFTA talks will happen this year
Wilbur Ross: Don't know if NAFTA talks will happen this year

Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement could spill into next year, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday.

Ross told reporters that the Trump administration would finish the talks in 2017 in an "ideal world." That timeline "would be a record speed for any big trade negotiation," he said.

"So, I don't know whether we'll be able to do that," he said at the SelectUSA Investment Summit. "But we're certainly mindful of the calendar and the fact that the calendar is fundamentally not our friend."

Last month, the Trump administration sent a letter notifying lawmakers it wanted to renegotiate NAFTA, the three-nation deal with Mexico and Canada that President Donald Trump has repeatedly derided as obsolete and damaging to American workers. The U.S. can start talks 90 days after that notification.

Ross noted that he sees "plenty of reasons" to renegotiate NAFTA this year. Mexico has a general election in July 2018, while the U.S. holds midterms elections a few months later.

Trade Promotion Authority — the congressional framework for renegotiating trade deals — also expires next year.