In the latest round of talks, the United States, Canada and Mexico said they had made progress in the renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement, although the American representative stated the progress was sluggish. Expectations are now that the talks to try and renegotiate the $1.2 trillion free trade pact will pass the original march deadline as the Mexican Presidential election approaches.
“We finally began to discuss the core issues, so this round was a step forward. But we are progressing very slowly,” said Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. representative that was at the latest round of talks.
Last week started the sixth of seven planned rounds of talks in Montreal, some officials had concerns that the U.S. was getting ready to walk away from the pact over slow progress. Optimism surfaced following Canada’s series of proposed compromises to address the demands of the U.S.
“For the next round, we will still have substantial challenges to overcome. Yet the progress made so far puts us on the right track to create landing zones to conclude the negotiation soon,” Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said.
Following previous rounds of NAFTA talks, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Lighthizer have issued a joint statement but did not following this round.
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President Donald Trump has voiced his hatred for the current agreement and has threatened to withdraw from the deal. Trumps comments have worried the markets because of potential damage to a jointed North American economy.
Officials from all three nations have said that the negotiations may continue beyond the March deadline, which initially was to avoid colliding with the upcoming Mexican presidential election.
The three countries remain divided regarding the U.S. demands to increase regional auto content requirements and require 50 percent U.S. content in North American-built vehicles. Other challenges of the agreement include Washington’s demands that NAFTA largely eliminate trade and investment dispute-settlement systems and have a “sunset” clause to enforce negotiations every five years.