Mexico to host ‘difficult’ new round of NAFTA talks
Negotiators from the United States, Mexico and Canada open a new round of talks on overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement, with the Mexican hosts already warning of turbulence.
Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the renegotiation of the 24-year-old trade deal is entering a critical phase as the three countries head to their seventh round of talks, scheduled to run through March 5.
“It´s going to be a difficult meeting, because the more you advance in the negotiations and wrap up work on the constructive issues... what you´re left with are the highly complex issues,” Guajardo told journalists.
“That´s why, as of this round, there won´t be any more easy rounds.”
After the last round of talks, in Montreal, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the three sides were making progress, but “very slowly.” The uncertainty looming over the deal is only increasing as the clock ticks on.
Mexico, which sends some 80 percent of its exports to the United States, is gearing up for elections on July 1.
The presidential frontrunner, the fiery leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has sent mixed signals on NAFTA.
At one point, he said he would start the negotiations over and “make Donald Trump see reason” -- though his campaign has sought to strike a more moderate tone.
Washington has also sent mixed signals since Trump triggered the renegotiation of what he has described as the worst trade deal in history.
While his message that NAFTA costs American jobs has played well with his base, the US business sector and many big players in his own Republican party are opposed to sweeping changes. Trump told The Wall Street Journal in January he would be “a little bit flexible” on his threat to withdraw from NAFTA because he understood the Mexican elections were complicating the negotiations.
A series of thorny issues will be on the table in Mexico City.
One is rules of origin for the auto sector - the amount of a car´s content that must be produced in the region for it to qualify for duty-free status.