DETROIT — Supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement see time as their best friend.
Trump administration officials originally intended to rewrite the 23-year-old agreement with Mexico and Canada in a mere five months. The business community was also in favor of a quick negotiation that would focus on achievable aims and not devolve into political theater.
But the schedule has already been pushed back as negotiations bog down over contentious U.S. proposals on issues such as rules of origin.
Now, as fears increase that President Donald Trump may fulfill his threat to pull out of NAFTA, the business community is looking to prolong the process even more, like a losing football team scrambling to kick its way into overtime.
"We need to buy ourselves more time," Kellie Meiman, a managing partner at government affairs consultancy McLarty Associates in Washington, told representatives of auto suppliers at an Automotive News forum here. "We need to build up that fact-based public support for the agreement."
Meiman, a former U.S. trade negotiator, expressed hope that Canada and Mexico would offer counterproposals during the coming round of talks, even if they are pro forma, just to keep the process from derailing.