Progress Made on NAFTA as Sixth Round Ends


TRENTON (Dis­patches) - Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Canada, the U.S. and Mex­ico agreed Mon­day that progress has been made as the sixth round of a rene­go­ti­ated North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA) ended in Mon­treal.

In his clos­ing re­marks at a press con­fer­ence, U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer said he hoped the Mon­treal talks would lead to “ma­jor break­throughs” when talks re­sume in Mex­ico City in Fe­bru­ary.

But Lighthizer also be­rated Canada for ac­cus­ing the U.S. of mis­us­ing anti-dump­ing tar­iffs and sub­se­quently fil­ing about 200 trade com­plaints against the U.S. with the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion. He called the move an “un­prece­dented” and “mas­sive at­tack” on U.S. trade laws. Re­gard­ing NAFTA, some back­ground was pro­vided as the sixth round de­vel­oped. The Amer­i­cans want it to be vol­un­tary for coun­tries to par­tic­i­pate in Chap­ter 11, or the in­vestor-state dis­pute set­tle­ment sys­tem as it is called, where com­pa­nies can sue coun­tries over their do­mes­tic laws for what they con­sider dis­crim­i­na­tory mea­sures.

Canada and Mex­ico pro­posed that Chap­ter 11 would ap­ply to them, but the Amer­i­cans could opt out.

The Amer­i­cans want a five-year au­to­matic ter­mi­na­tion clause for NAFTA, at which time rene­go­ti­a­tions would be­gin. Mex­ico and Canada said the un­cer­tainty would chill in­vest­ment. Canada of­fered some coun­ter­pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing a com­mis­sion that would reg­u­larly check and up­date how the agree­ment is work­ing.

Canada has not made any pro­pos­als in the area of dairy prod­ucts, where the U.S. wants Canada’s limit on im­ports of milk, cheese and poul­try ended within 10 years.

The Amer­i­cans want a limit on the num­ber of con­tracts Cana­dian and Mex­i­can com­pa­nies can bid on, a mea­sure that would push U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “Buy Amer­i­can” dic­tate. The coun­tries are also dis­cussing the auto in­dus­try, but Lighthizer said two com­pro­mise pro­pos­als that would see a re­duc­tion in Amer­i­can-made parts in vehicles – the U.S. is call­ing for 85 per­cent – were un­ac­cept­able. Cana­dian For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said at the news con­fer­ence that de­spite some bel­li­cose com­ments from those in­volved, she was more pos­i­tive af­ter the sixth round ended.

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