The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was established in 1994, with support from the national governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

If one of these governments suddenly wanted to, could they withdraw from NAFTA? Or could they force a member of NAFTA, perhaps Mexico, to leave?

Members of NAFTA (in green)

  • The conditions for terminating the agreement would be spelled out in the fine-print of the agreement itself. So this question can not be generalized to "all free-trade agreements" but needs to be asked for every agreement separately.
    – Philipp
    May 1 '16 at 9:01
  • 3
    @Philipp Actually, that's not the case, I'm afraid I don't know enough about it to write an answer but there are generic principles of international law at play. EU treaties are somewhat unusual in spelling out the fact that countries can leave it and how that's supposed to work in so much detail I think. See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty#Ending_treaty_obligations
    – Relaxed
    May 1 '16 at 13:10
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    The condition is apparently something like 6mos notice from any party. It's come up a number of times in Canada due to the huge negative effects of NAFTA, but never been pushed by the government in power. May 1 '16 at 17:11

Each free trade agreement sets the terms, so the answer will vary by FTA. In the case of NAFTA, the terms of withdrawal are dictated in Article 2205. Specifically:

Article 2205: Withdrawal

A Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written notice of withdrawal to the other Parties. If a Party withdraws, the Agreement shall remain in force for the remaining Parties.

The 6 month written notification is fairly standard for most international agreements, free trade or otherwise.

Article 2205 also answers whether or not a country can force another out: No.

If one country were to leave NAFTA, the others would still have the agreement, at least nominally, but if that country were the U.S., Mexico and Canada would have a hard time making NAFTA worthwhile.

The U.S. could, in theory, agree to leave NAFTA at the same time as Canada, and then immediately resign an identical treaty with Canada, which would have the effect of kicking Mexico out. The realities of politics in both countries make such a course of action unlikely, as once the treaty is open for renegotiation, then interest groups in both countries would want to seek better terms than they got 20 years ago.

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