29 Jan 2018

Lawyers optimistic on NAFTA talks

NAFTA renegotiations are restarting despite Canadian government officials previously expressing pessimism at the potential for a deal.

Adrian Reynolds

According to Fasken Martineau partner Clifford Sosnow  there are reasons to believe that a viable deal may be worked out. Mr Sosnow says that that 'As long as there are negotiations and engagement, there’s hope. We’re seeing for the first time a real discussion and an appearance of negotiations by both sides on some of the hard issues. The previous ‘take it or leave it’ demands are being abandoned. There is a need for patience, as you can’t read every single tea leaf that shows up at the top of a cup.' Recognised as a leading international trade law practitioner, Mr. Sosnow has appeared before NAFTA and WTO panels, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) and the Federal Court of Appeal. 

Close consultation

Commenting on the US President, he says: 'Trump has the image of a weather vane on NAFTA negotiations. He started out saying NAFTA was a terrible deal and is now talking more about a deal. The result is like reporting on a hurricane. You need to get a feel for the atmospherics and an appreciation that developments can be very fluid. For companies, this means that they are holding their breath and operating in close consultation with the government. But a shift in the weather can lead to a positive settlement.' 

Clients impacted

Mr Sosnow says Fasken has numerous clients that are going to be affected by any decisions on NAFTA, including automobile manufacturers, banks, service companies, IT companies, large retailers, manufacturers, agriculture business, aerospace firms, and transportation companies. However, he points out that there are points of obvious agreement, which is helping propel the negotiations. 'There is recognition that after 25 years, certain industries have blossomed under NAFTA.  For example, automakers now see that a tremendous proportion of what goes into making a car, materials that didn’t exist 25 years ago such as computers, technology, and software, are now needed to turn in a finished product. The question for NAFTA negotiators is can we capture these technological developments in a way that results in increase in trade for the NAFTA countries?'