WASHINGTON—Canadian politicians who want North American Free Trade Agreement talks to start sooner rather than later will have to wait because U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said "real" negotiations to revamp the deal won't start until later this year.
"I would like the results tomorrow, but that is not the way the world works," Ross said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. He said it probably will be "the latter part of this year before real negotiations get under way."
Ross, the former auto supplier executive who was sworn in last month as Commerce secretary, said he hopes the talks don't take "substantially longer than a year."
The secretary's comments come as U.S. partners in the agreement brace for negotiations that could grow contentious and even result in an end to one of the world's largest free-trade zones. Canada has called for talks to begin soon amid concerns that uncertainty over the outcome will stymie investments.
"People are sitting on their wallets and they're not investing as much as they would if there was more certainty," Canada's ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, said March 6.
Meanwhile, Mexico's government has already started discussing the deal with businesses that depend heavily on NAFTA.