US, Mexico nearing NAFTA renegotiation agreement

U.S and Mexican officials are overcoming key trade differences in negotiations to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

With a goal of reaching a new pact by the end of August, talks between the two nations to hammer out a renegotiated NAFTA agreement resumed last week.

Although officials have secured agreement on crucial issues, obstacles such as U.S. insistence on the pact undergoing approbation every five years and issues surrounding the auto sector remain, including wages and tariffs.

The U.S. position on a “sunset clause” and the demand Mexican auto workers’ wages increased were the main obstacles surviving three weeks of deliberation.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters neither matter was discussed, but both were expected to be addressed this week.

While conversations between Washington and Mexico City have made progress, one obstacle remains:  Canada has refused to return to the negotiating table.

Although Mexican trade officials have regularly kept Canada abreast of ongoing talks, Canadian leaders are reportedly irate over tariffs imposed on the country’s steel exports and a threat from President Trump to impose further tariffs on automobiles.

For Canada, unresolved issues over intellectual property, agricultural issues, the U.S. demand for a “sunset clause,” and the de minimis threshold persist relative specifically to NAFTA.

“The jury is still out on whether we’ll get to a final agreement,” said former Commerce Department official Michael Camuñez, now CEO of a Latin American business consulting firm. “But for the first time in negotiations, the U.S. seems to be negotiating from a genuine posture to get to a ‘yes.’”

A carefully crafted trade agreement which reduced trade barriers and went into effect in 1994, NAFTA was the subject of sharp criticism from then-candidate Trump on the the campaign trail in 2016.  Since becoming president, Trump has sought to rework the pact to benefit American workers.

 

[Reuters] [CBC] [New York Times] [Photo courtesy Sean Kilpatrick/CP via Radio Canada International]

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