The Trump administration is working to accelerate the pace of the North American Free Trade Agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has proposed to his Canadian and Mexican counterparts that they announce an agreement in principle by March 31 and completed by May 1.

May 1 is the deadline when the current Canadian and Mexican exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs, recently announced by the president, expire.   Lighthizer is cognizant that Mexico’s negotiators may have less latitude in talks with the approach of Mexico’s presidential elections scheduled for July 1 as well as provincial elections in Canada.  Those elections in Canada may stiffen resolve to oppose U.S. demands that Canada lower barriers to U.S. poultry and dairy products.

Progress has been made during the seven rounds of negotiations, but obstacles remain, including President Trump’s insistence on a sunset clause. That clause would specify that if a party is not satisfied with how NAFTA is being implemented, that party may withdraw from NAFTA after five years.