NAFTA Talks Remain Tense as Trump Makes Demands About Mexican Immigration

With NAFTA at the forefront of business minds all over North America, Trump may be throwing another wrench into the negotiations: a condition concerning Mexican immigration.

Trump wants to make undocumented Mexican labour something Mexico itself has to solve as a condition of NAFTA. It is currently unclear as to whether or not this is something that will actually come up at the talks, especially given ministers from all three countries are pushing to wrap up the deal.

While Trump says there is no deadline for the new deal, he has previously said that the talks were coming along great. However, Trump’s threats to leave NAFTA completely and his new threat to tie Mexican immigration to the deal still have business leaders in the country worried.

Canada and Mexico still are optimistic that a deal will be reached by May, even with the two countries disagreeing with the United States on the details of a number of issues. Mexico has no intention of bringing immigration to the NAFTA table, however—Mexico’s defense is that its migration policy is domestic and attempts to tie NAFTA to it are unacceptable.

The potential issue of Mexican immigration controls isn’t the only one making a finalized NAFTA deal complicated. The automotive industry is another tense point; Canada and Mexico are reluctant to adhere to tougher regulations about the contents of and tariffs on vehicles made in North America. While the Trump team has relaxed on the issue, it hasn’t gone away completely.

Dairy exports and imports are also a thorny issue. Duty on milk imports in Canada is priced at 270%, which effectively creates a protectionist economy that prioritizes Canadian business within Canada. The United States wants to make more inroads in Canadian markets such as dairy, but Canada doesn’t want that to happen. Neither country wants to budge. It remains to be seen how NAFTA will handle the agricultural supply chains, such as dairy.

However, despite all the uncertainty, at least two of the countries are sure a new deal will be finalized soon—and Mexico, in particular, is invested in getting a deal out, given an election in July might shake up their administration and change the terms Mexico wants and is willing to work with.