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Late last month, the U.S. and Mexico announced they had reached a preliminary bilateral agreement to update their portion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. discussions with Canada are ongoing, but senior officials have repeatedly suggested that they are prepared to move forward without Canada if necessary. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has again conceded this week that “large issues” remain and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that he won’t be rushed into a deal.
The Trump administration is racing to meet a self-imposed deadline to finish NAFTA negotiations with Canada by September 30 in order to sign the deal before Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s last day in office on November 30. Moving forward without Canada would set up a showdown with Congress—many members of which represent communities that rely on trade with Canada. Canada is the largest foreign market for U.S. goods. Trade experts also question whether a U.S.-Mexico bilateral deal is compliant with Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).