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Ryan sets May 17 deadline for NAFTA

Congress must have a new North American Free Trade Agreement deal from negotiators by May 17 if the revamped trade pact is to make it to a vote under the current Republican-controlled Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said at an event May 9.

Ryan, speaking at The Ripon Society, noted that there are still a "handful of unresolved issues" between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, including in agriculture and dairy, and that the agreement is something that "has to be done," according to a recorded video of the event released to the public May 10.

"As the author of [Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA] can tell you, we have to have the paper, not just an agreement, we have to have the paper from [the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative] by May 17 for us to vote on it this year," he said. "We'll see if they can get this done by May 17 and get us the paper to Congress, which then we could have this vote in December. If they can't, then we won't."

Under the TPA, congressional-renewed legislation that allows for expedited trade negotiations and implementation, Congress must be notified by President Donald Trump 90 days before he signs a new trade deal. The text of that proposed agreement must also be published publicly 60 days ahead of that signing. Within 105 days of the signing, the U.S. International Trade Commission is also required to publish its economic assessment report before it can move to an initial vote in Congress.

The TPA expires July 1, and Congress is expected to renew it after Trump asked Congress for a three-year extension in March.

Ryan and his party are hoping that the agreement will be reached in time for a vote under the current Republican-controlled Congress. Another hurdle facing Republicans is the midterm election in November, in which the party could potentially lose a majority in the House and the Senate, giving Democrats the power to reject the trade pact after more than nine months of grueling talks.

A deal would first need to be voted on by the House Ways and Means Committee, followed by the full House before it is voted on by the Senate Finance Committee and the full Senate.

Under Ryan's May 17 deadline, a vote could take place by Dec. 28.

Ryan's comments come as negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico continue nearly weeklong talks in Washington to secure a new NAFTA deal. Ryan also met with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland at the U.S. Capitol on May 10.

Freeland told reporters May 9 that the rules of origin, which dictate how much of a car must be produced in the three NAFTA countries to remain duty free, is the main issue at hand as negotiators work around the clock to secure a deal ahead of numerous deadlines, including those of the U.S. as well as the July 1 Mexican presidential election. She noted that talks are expected to continue through at least May 11 but hinted that discussions may run past that date.