NAFTA: Lighthizer hints Mexico pact may need to be reopened if delayed

Darnell Taylor
September 25, 2018

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Tuesday that negotiators are "sort of running out of time" to include Canada in the trade deal that the U.S. made with Mexico last month.

"The fact is, Canada is not making concessions in areas where we think they're essential", Lighthizer said at the Concordia Summit in NY. "We're certainly not going to give up".

"If Canada comes along later, then that's what will happen", he said. -Mexican deal might form the basis of a three-nation pact.

Canadian officials say that despite the US threats to go it alone with Mexico, they do not believe Trump can by himself turn the 1994 pact into a bilateral deal. "If not, we'll have to do it in a separate deal, as soon afterward as we can", he told an official from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at an event in New York City.

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Lighthizer's comments on the state of the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations were similar to those offered on condition of anonymity by Canadian and American officials. "There are very large issues", Lighthizer said at the Concordia policy summit in NY. Both the USA and Mexico have said that they will move forward without Canada if necessary. "I think our view is that now we'll turn to that as the next stage". Washington and Mexico City want to finalize the deal by November 30, before current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto leaves office.

Canada also has made clear the United States needs to withdraw Trump's threat of a 25 per cent tariff on autos for a deal to be possible.

The United States, citing security reasons, imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum in late May.

And it is unclear whether Congress would allow Canada to be added in to a U.S. -Mexico agreement at a later date rather than requiring the administration to make two separate deals. He said that he originally hoped to reach some agreement on the tariffs as part of NAFTA talks, but now is focused on finishing NAFTA first before negotiating a separate deal on the tariffs.

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