NAFTA Talks Reach One-Year Mark, Close to US Mexico Agreement

Darnell Taylor
August 20, 2018

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday expressed hope a breakthrough could be made in coming days on reworking the NAFTA trade deal, though his Mexican counterpart said flexibility was needed to reach agreement.

They've said Ottawa's partners have frozen it out of the critical NAFTA negotiations as a tactic and have warned that Canada could eventually be forced into accepting a deal reached between the US and Mexico.

After long and hard negotiations among the parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement - all against the backdrop of President Donald Trump's well-known opposition - a breakthrough may be at hand. "And as a matter of fact, the Trump administration has even said 'we'll add extra tariffs on you if you don't play ball". Two of them said the countries may agree to narrower restrictions on some Mexican produce, such as tomatoes. The U.S. and Mexico are pushing for an agreement this month that would give the countries time to sign the pact before Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office in December.

NAFTA talks ground to a halt in late May in the run-up to the presidential election in Mexico on July 1. "I'm hopeful with Mexico". Trump has repeatedly argued existing NAFTA rules have facilitated an exodus of manufacturing jobs from the USA to Mexico, especially in the automobile sector.

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Some auto industry executives have said the United States and Mexico are close to a deal to increase North American automotive content thresholds, with substantial requirements for content produced in high wage areas, namely the United States and Canada.

The U.S. and Mexico are resolving their differences on agricultural products covered under NAFTA after the Trump administration withdrew some of its sweeping demands, bringing the nations closer to an overall deal, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

But Guajardo said, "There are issues that have to be discussed at the trilateral level".

United States officials have indicated that if the deal can be agreed by the end of August it would be possible to win congressional approval for the new NAFTA before Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office December 1.

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