NAFTA round ends with Canada, Mexico against U.S. positions
The fifth round of the North American Free Trade Agreement ended in Mexico City, with the trade officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico issuing a bland statement, but with Canada unwilling to accept U.S. demands, particularly on autos.
There will be a low-key negotiating session in December in Washington, with a sixth round Jan. 23-28 in Montreal, Canada.
The three top trade officials — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal — did not attend the talks but said in a news release, “In response to ministerial instructions at the end of the fourth round, chief negotiators concentrated on making progress with the aim of narrowing gaps and finding solutions. As a result, progress was made in a number of chapters. Chief negotiators reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward in all areas of the negotiations, in order to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.”
Lighthizer said in a separate statement, “While we have made progress on some of our efforts to modernize NAFTA, I remain concerned about the lack of headway. Thus far, we have seen no evidence that Canada or Mexico are willing to seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement. Absent rebalancing, we will not reach a satisfactory result.
“A rebalanced, updated NAFTA will promote greater prosperity for American workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses, and strengthen the North American region as a whole,” Lighthizer added. “Our teams will be meeting again next month in Washington. I hope our partners will come to the table in a serious way so we can see meaningful progress before the end of the year.”
A series of news reports said that Canada had pushed back on U.S. auto demands and that Mexico had proposed limiting U.S. access to Mexican government contracts.
There did not appear to be progress on the U.S. proposals to allow the use of trade remedy laws to address Florida growers’ concerns about seasonal Mexican produce imports or the Canadian dairy supply management system.
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