Mex­ico to host ‘dif­fi­cult’ new round of NAFTA talks

Enterprise - - International News -

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.

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