I read Carlo's testimony. He's a friend of mine and the timeline he points out is accurate. If you think about it, trade negotiations take a long time. The original Canada-U.S. free trade agreement took us about four and a half years to negotiate, and NAFTA, which was, in a sense, building on the free trade agreement, took us two and a half years.
The United States is only now in the legislatively mandated process of holding hearings in Congress, so the earliest they can begin is really mid-August. Do we think we can finish this up by Christmas? Given the breadth of the agreement, I'd be very doubtful, and again, as Carlo pointed out, there is a timeline that takes this forward.
Ultimately, what is important for Canada is to get a good deal for Canada. I do think we should be working in tandem with Mexico. That partnership is very important and I'm encouraged to see that Foreign Minister Freeland has stated, with her counterparts Minister Videgaray for trade for Mexico and Minister Guajardo Villarreal, the intent to work together and that she has been down to Mexico recently to do this. We should stay together because the Americans would like—I wouldn't say the American approach, but I would say the Trump approach is to divide and conquer.
On NAFTA itself, NAFTA remains intact, so the Canada-Mexico piece of that stays in place. There's nothing to stop us from upgrading it, if the United States pulls out. Also, there's nothing to stop us from bringing other countries into that. This is why it will be interesting to see how the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations play out.
Whatever happens, personal relationships really do count. The personal relationships now at the various levels between our negotiators, between Canadian and Mexican ministers, are strong enough that they will stay intact, even if, at the end of the day, the Americans insist on two separate bilateral negotiations, which is certainly the preferred approach of Mr. Trump. Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, has said it's more important that we get a result than the format, so they seem to be wobbling a bit there, but we're still not exactly sure how that's going to play out. On the time frame, I do think the Mexican election is probably going to intervene. Whether the Mexicans will be in a position to do a deal quickly—there was talk of that back in January, but it didn't pay off. Within Mexico, there will be a lot of suspicion as well, if there's a quick deal done.
Most important, for both Canada and Mexico, is that we get a good deal, whatever comes next.