Stephen Kho Quoted in Foreign Direct Investment Article on NAFTA Renegotiations

Akin Gump international trade partner Stephen Kho has been quoted in the Foreign Direct Investment article “NAFTA negotiators’ race against time,” which reports that NAFTA negotiators are facing a tight schedule as they seek to strike a deal ahead of Mexican presidential elections and U.S. mid-term elections next year. If a deal is not reached by the beginning of 2018, the article says, it might not be reached at all.

Kho, a former associate general counsel for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said the United States, Canada and Mexico are looking at everything as part of the NAFTA renegotiations, with the auto sector being a particularly tough process starting with its rules of origin.

“The U.S. wants more domestic content requirement or more regional content requirement and frankly that will be difficult,” said Kho. Other issues will be sticky as well, such as agriculture. “It’s unclear whether lumber could even be considered part of NAFTA. The U.S. would like to have it in, but the Canadians want it out. There is more – such as labor issues (which will be very hard), e-commerce and intellectual property issues.”

Renegotiating the entire agreement will be difficult under a four-month timeframe, Kho added. “It’s like having a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle versus a 50-piece puzzle; you need more time to put it together, no matter how good or seasoned you are.”

Kho continued, “When you are short of time, some decisions get made without full vetting and thinking through of the impact. It could be that there are decisions that will be made that will be later regretted – or maybe there are deals that are cut that don’t necessarily reflect what was intended.”