Optimism over NAFTA deal as ministers to hold mini-round of talks

Optimism over NAFTA deal as ministers to hold mini-round of talks

Mexico, the United States and Canada will hold a ministerial mini-round of talks tomorrow to discuss the most controversial aspects of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) amid optimism that a deal could soon be reached.

Mexico Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo, United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will meet in Washington, where rules of origin as they apply to the automotive sector are expected to be the main focus of discussion.

The United States is pushing for higher U.S. and regional content in order for vehicles to avoid tariffs.

Dispute resolution mechanisms, workers’ rights and accessibility to government procurement markets also remain contentious issues.

Guajardo and Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray met with Lighthizer and senior presidential advisor Jared Kushner yesterday to discuss the progress of the ongoing renegotiations.

A joint statement issued by the secretariats of Economy and Foreign Affairs said Guajardo and Videgaray “agreed to continue with dialogue to advance the mutual positions in the pending chapters.”

Only six of the approximately 30 chapters in the updated agreement have so far been finished.

But sources close to the talks say that the three countries could soon reach agreement in principle on key issues that allows leaders to make an announcement at a regional summit in Peru next week.

In Quebec City today, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters “I believe we’re in a moment where we’re moving forward in a significant way.”

“Hopefully there will be some good news coming. We know these negotiations, there are good moments and there are slower moments. But right now, we’re having a very productive moment of engaging with the United States and Mexico,” he added.

At an event in West Virginia today, United States President Donald Trump was also upbeat about reaching an agreement.

“We’re working very hard on NAFTA with Mexico and Canada. We’ll have something, I think, fairly soon,” he said.

However, he also reiterated his threat to terminate the 24-year-old treaty if it is not reworked to better favor the United States.

“There’s no rush. We’ll get it done right or we’ll terminate it,” Trump said.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said earlier in the week that he hoped that an agreement could be reached that will benefit all three nations.

The NAFTA partners previously agreed to expedite talks as much as possible to avoid clashing with domestic electoral processes.

The Mexican presidential election is less than three months away and the official campaign period has already started.

Next week’s Summit of the Americas in Lima will likely be the last time the Mexican, United States and Canadian leaders participate in an event together before Peña Nieto leaves office on November 30.

Source: El Economista (sp), Reuters (en), Bloomberg (en)

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