(Bloomberg) -- Nafta negotiators plan to begin meeting in Mexico City two days ahead of schedule this month in order to give themselves more time to discuss the myriad of issues covered under the 23-year-old trade pact, according to two people familiar with the plans.
Negotiators have organized talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement into different rounds, and last met in October during round four in the Washington area.
The fifth round will run Nov. 15-21 rather than Nov. 17-21 as originally planned, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the preparations aren’t public yet. Negotiators are giving themselves more time because they want to avoid scheduling conflicts, as many of them are discussing multiple topics that would overlap without the two additional days, one of the individuals said. The chief negotiators will join talks on Nov. 17 as previously scheduled, the other person said.
The decision to extend the round comes after officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico last month abandoned a December target to wrap up talks to revamp Nafta, saying they needed until the end of March to negotiate a new deal. They also extended the time between each round, giving themselves more space to consider proposals.
Negotiations grew contentious during the fourth round, when the U.S. made controversial demands on dairy, automotive content, dispute panels, government procurement and a sunset clause, under which Nafta would expire after five years unless the parties can agree to extend it. At the closing press event, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he was “surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change.”
The fifth round of negotiations, which will take place in Mexico City, will begin with meetings on textiles, labor, services and intellectual property, one of the people said. As in the last round, participants will discuss the controversial topic of rules of origin in the second half of the round. The rules govern what share of a product must be sourced within Nafta to receive the pact’s benefits.
Chief technical negotiators for the three countries will meet again in Washington on Dec. 11-15, though the nations’ ministers aren’t expected to attend those meetings, the person said.
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