WASHINGTON -- Congress probably won't have time to approve a new North American Free Trade Agreement this year, as cabinet members from the three trading partners continue to negotiate changes to the pact, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.
Asked if the deadline for congressional approval of a new deal had run out, Cornyn said, "yeah, I think so."
"It looks like they are kicking it over to 2019," he told reporters in Washington on Monday. "I wish it had been handled earlier."
Cornyn's comments are the most definitive after House Speaker Paul Ryan said early last month that American legislators needed notice of a NAFTA deal by May 17 so they could vote before this Congress ends in 2018. Ryan later said there might be a couple weeks of wiggle room, placing the deadline around early June.
The U.S., Mexico and Canada have been holding periodic discussions since August after President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw from the 24-year-old pact if he can't renegotiate one that would shrink America's trade deficit and boost manufacturing jobs. It could take Congress at least six months to vote on a new agreement after it receives notice that a deal has been reached.