Current NAFTA Talks Extended

April 20, 2018 03:46 PM
NAFTA talks have been focused until now mostly on the crucial auto sector issue, and negotiators are “making good progress,” said Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

(Bloomberg) -- Nafta talks will continue through the weekend before ministers regroup Tuesday, as negotiations take on new urgency while Mexico cautions nothing is imminent.

Senior U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials met in Washington Friday, under pressure from looming elections to reach a deal quickly. The countries have said they’re hopeful for something by early May, though the U.S. has indicated it may be only a deal “in principle.” Key figures struck a generally upbeat tone.

“We are basically working very hard, but I think there’s still a lot of work to do,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on his way into meetings. On his way out, he downplayed the notion of a deal that focused only on the auto sector and said countries will need to be flexible to get a quick deal.

The talks include Guajardo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, as well as White House adviser Jared Kushner, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Katie Telford, the chief of staff to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The countries are said to have concluded the chapter on telecommunications, the seventh completed out of about 30 potential chapters.

The talks are meant to produce a wide-ranging Nafta, not just new rules for automotive production, Guajardo said. “There’s no sense to modernize Nafta, to upgrade Nafta, if it’s not based on what you have built in the original one,” while adding in provisions for the new and modern economy, he said. “We’re well-advanced on telecom, energy and digital trade. This is a comprehensive Nafta."

How quickly a deal is reached will depend “on the flexibilities that all the parties at the table show,” he said.

Talks have been focused until now mostly on the crucial auto sector issue, and negotiators are “making good progress,” Freeland said Friday. The countries had energetic and productive talks during what she says is now essentially a “continuous” negotiating round, though she too has cautioned against assuming a deal is imminent, as has Trudeau. Canada will “take the time it takes to get a good deal,” Freeland said.

Negotiators will stay in Washington over the weekend before the ministers meet again next week, Freeland said. Videgaray said the ministers would meet Tuesday in Washington.

Freeland regularly calls auto rules of origin -- which govern what share of a car needs to be made in the three countries to be traded tariff-free under Nafta -- the most important issue. “If we can get that right, that will be the core of a successful agreement and negotiation,” she said Thursday. “A Canadian focus right now is on being sure we get the details right, being sure we come up with an outcome that is actually workable for our companies.”


Copyright 2018, Bloomberg

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Spell Check

Eastern, NE
4/21/2018 08:39 AM

  Less than 25% done with negotiations. Don't see them being done by May 1. In the meantime, how many corn, sorghum and wheat sales are we losing to Mexico alone as they seek other suppliers? Commodity prices are going to suck this fall.

NE Mont, MT
4/21/2018 01:16 PM

  Decades of building foreign trade relationships down the drain because of one moron. No sympathy for agricultural idiots who helped vote him in. You are right Zagnut, commodity prices ARE going to suck!

bad axe, MI
4/22/2018 07:24 AM

  It's going to be interesting what they agreed on for import sugar quotas coming in to the US from Mexico. Mexico really only has sugar to export to raise revenue to buy beans and corn. Wright now world refined sugar price is $.12 a pound, in the USA end users are paying $.37 a pound for refined sugar because of the quota system that limits the amount of sugar coming in. It's going to be interesting on what Trump is going to do on sugar.


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