New Straits Times
‘TALKS NOT MEETING EXPECTATIONS’
US says ready to move on a bilateral basis, if necessary
NEGOTIATORS failed to make the progress expected in the latest round of talks on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the top United States trade official warned on Monday, as President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on the deal.
“In spite of our hard work, we have not made the progress that many had hoped in this round. We have closed out only three additional chapters,” said Robert Lighthizer, the chief US negotiator, as the seventh round of Nafta talks wrapped up, here.
“To complete Nafta 2.0, we will need agreement on roughly 30 chapters. So far, after seven months, we have completed just six,” he said.
The warning came after Trump vowed Canada and Mexico would also be affected by his plans to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminium unless he got a “fair” deal to overhaul Nafta.
“Tariffs on steel and aluminium will only come off if new and fair Nafta agreement is signed,” he said in one of a series of morning tweets.
He later doubled down on the threat in a White House press conference.
“No, we’re not backing down,” he said. “There will be tariffs on steel for Canada and for Mexico.”
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland vowed in her own remarks at the close of the Nafta talks that her country would fight fire with fire.
“Should restrictions be imposed on Canadian steel and aluminium products, Canada will take appropriate, responsive measures to defend our trade interests and our workers,” she said.
Lighthizer said it was urgent to update the 1994 deal, warning that a July presidential election in Mexico plus November midterm elections in the US were complicating the talks.
“As President Trump has said, we hope for a successful completion of these talks and we would prefer a three-way, tripart agreement.
“If that proves impossible, we are prepared to move on a bilateral basis,” he said.