NAFTA negotiators are faced with tough choices ahead as deadlines approach.
NAFTA negotiators are faced with tough choices ahead as deadlines approach. Credit: Graphic by Katy Silva / San Antonio Report

Come September, business leaders from three nations will have a better idea what direction the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is taking. Leaders hope a deal will be made by the end of the year or early 2018, after the immensely complex negotiations.

NAFTA negotiations began Wednesday as the first of several scheduled rounds between now and the end of the year. Considered a very fast timetable for a trade agreement of this magnitude, both Mexico and the U.S. are especially eager to reach a deal as they both have national elections scheduled for 2018.

“[The third] session will be a very good marker for what’s to come,” said Eddie Aldrete, senior vice president of the International Bank of Commerce and chairman of the Texas-Mexico Trade Coalition, on the first day of the negotiations this week.

“On opening day, there’s always some saber-rattling going on and we have to let that process play out,” Aldrete said. “By then, we’ll have a better idea of how and where it’s going.”

At this decisive point in the negotiations, the Rivard Report will sponsor a forum with the Texas-Mexico Trade Coalition on the trilateral trade agreement. “NAFTA 2.0: The Future of North American Trade” is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 29, at St. Mary’s University. The City of San Antonio also is a sponsor.

Rivard Report Publisher Robert Rivard will moderate a panel of speakers to include former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza, now counsel with the law firm of White & Case in Mexico City; Mexico’s Ambassador to the U.S. Gerónimo Gutiérrez, and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Additional speakers will be announced soon.

The event will highlight the importance of international trade among the United States, Mexico, and Canada and will conclude with a luncheon.

“We all went into this week with everybody who is supportive of trade encouraged, but now realize the hard yards are ahead of us,” Garza said. “So it’s good to have information at every point of the process, and it’s critical for people to know [what] the stakes are and how they are impacted so they can make decisions on how they want to engage.

“The negotiations are a technocratic exercise right now. But in the end, they’ll be built on a political foundation. People need good, solid information so they can impact the political process, either through their congressmen or city council or mayors. People should know what’s at stake and these forums give people the opportunity to do that.”

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities for the event, click here. Individual tickets will be available soon.

Sponsorship proceeds will help support the Rivard Report’s nonprofit journalism and an educational scholarship to the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council (SAMFCO).

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.