10/09/2018 – Politico
Back in July, it would have been impossible to predict that the talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would end as they did, first with a deal with Mexico on Aug. 27 and then with Canada on Sept. 30. Practically up until those dates, the United States had made outlandish demands, and while we will probably never know what motivated it to move away from its most recalcitrant positions, the important fact is that it did. Mexico and Canada did not cave to the U.S. government’s pretensions and preserved most of the important features of the old deal while the United States backed down.
Many of the U.S. trade representatives’ demands were so unreasonable that it gave credence to the idea that what the U.S. government really wanted was to get a deal that, far from promoting, would destroy trade and investment among its NAFTA partners. Yet, the Mexican and Canadian negotiators repeatedly expressed firmly and credibly that they would rather take the unilateral termination of NAFTA by the United States than sign an agreement that would have the same practical consequence.
Take, for example, the insistence on a sunset clause that would automatically end the new trade agreement every five years unless the three governments agreed otherwise. It was a feature that would have precluded the certainty for investors that these deals are supposed to provide. The negotiators settled for a rather convoluted formula, but one that at least avoids the sudden death of the agreement and makes certain it has an extended life.