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US House leader: NAFTA vote possible in December if review moves quickly

Congress could vote on a renegotiated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement in December if the U.S. International Trade Commission, or ITC, speeds up its required review of a revised pact, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on May 17.

"The question is can the ITC constrict their time that they would take to process, and that's where the wiggle room would be," Ryan said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. "My guess is there's probably some wiggle room at the ITC on how long it takes for their part of the process, but not an indefinite amount, and that means time is really of the essence."

Ryan said earlier this month that lawmakers will not have enough time to vote on a renegotiated deal by December unless President Donald Trump notifies Congress that he intends to sign a new trade agreement by May 17. That timeline – set under fast track trade promotion authority – requires the president to give Congress 90 days notice that he intends to sign a new agreement.

In addition, the ITC must produce an economic assessment report 105 days before the president signs the treaty. After the president signs the pact, the administration has 60 days to provide lawmakers with a list of which U.S. laws must change for the country to comply with a new agreement.

The ITC may have an extra week or two of flexibility if it speeds up the process, which gives the U.S., Mexico and Canada a bit more time to strike a deal, Ryan said.

"The question is with the ITC having, let's just say for the sake of your question, for the argument, a couple of weeks of wiggle room, that buys the administration and our trading partners two more weeks to get a deal," Ryan said when asked about the additional time the ITC might have if it condenses its review process. "Will they get a deal? I do not know."