Saturday, 16 February, 2019

NAFTA negotiators still divided, but cite progress in talks

Solar panels at Yingli Solar in Baoding China the country is a major exporter of solar panels Solar panels at Yingli Solar in Baoding China the country is a major exporter of solar panels
Patty Aguilar | 30 January, 2018, 16:29

Trump's trade chief rejected Canadian proposals for unblocking NAFTA modernization talks on Monday but pledged to seek "breakthroughs" by late February, easing concerns that Washington would soon withdraw from the trilateral pact.

Trump, who described the North American Free Trade Agreement as a disaster that has drained manufacturing jobs to Mexico, has frequently threatened to abandon it unless it can be renegotiated to bring back jobs to the United States.

The participants in talks on renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico and the USA have made some progress.

"We finally began to discuss the core issues, so this round was a step forward". What Lighthizer says is the test. "We owe it to our citizens, who are operating in a state of uncertainty, to move much faster".

The ministers' meeting on Monday "is fundamental", said Francisco de Rosenzweig, a lawyer at White & Case who previously served as Mexico's top worldwide trade negotiator and is part of the private-sector delegation in Montreal. "We urge the three parties to engage constructively to ensure that consumers and businesses are able to continue to benefit from NAFTA for decades to come". "You can point to the fact that they're already talking about additional rounds, where not too long ago, we were wondering whether or not there would be continued negotiations", Reichert said.

The talks are now scheduled to continue for at least two more months, with rounds scheduled for Mexico City and Washington, before policy-makers confront a major dilemma: what to do during the spring, summer and fall as Mexico and the US hold national elections.

Lighthizer is clearly not happy with Canadian proposals aimed at breaking a logjam on autos, and he accused Canada of mounting a "massive attack" on its trading regime with a wide-ranging complaint to the World Trade Organization earlier this month.

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The week-long round concluded January 29 with the USA trade czar sharing the widespread assessment of others that the latest talks marked the first concrete examples of constructive dialogue on hot-button issues. Some of the hallmarks of this round included Canada introducing "ideas"-officials refused to call them formal counter-proposals-and discussions around three controversial USA proposals".

Officials said the negotiating teams had closed a chapter on anti-corruption measures and were close to wrapping up sections on telecommunications, sanitary measures for the agriculture industry and technical barriers to trade. The US is calling for any new agreement to include a proviso stipulating that North American-made auto parts must constitute 85 percent of new vehicles in order to avoid tariffs, with 50 percent originating in the United States.

On the review clause, the US has proposed a rule that would terminate NAFTA every five years unless it's maintained by all three countries.

Critical comments by Trump, Lighthizer and others have unsettled markets that fret about the potential damage to a highly integrated North American economy if the United States gives six months' notice it is leaving.

"We know we can't take anything for granted until we get these negotiations across the finish line".

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) acknowledged that it is evaluating the United States proposal, however, they emphasized that no agreement has yet been reached.

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