The United States, Canada and Mexico concluded on Sunday their first round of talks to revamp the NAFTA trade pact, vowing to keep up a speedy pace of negotiations.
In a statement issued at the end of five days of negotiations in Washington, top trade officials from the three countries announced that Mexico will host the next round of talks from September 1 to 5, Reuters reports.
The talks will move to Canada later in September, then return to the US in October, with additional rounds planned for later this year.
“While a great deal of effort and negotiation will be required in the coming months, Canada, Mexico and the United States are committed to an accelerated and comprehensive negotiation process that will upgrade our agreement,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in the statement.
The three countries are trying to complete a full modernization of the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement by early 2018, before Mexico’s national election campaign starts.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to scrap NAFTA without major changes to reduce US goods trade deficits with its North American neighbors, describing it as a “disaster” that drained hundreds of thousands of American manufacturing jobs to low-wage Mexico.
The joint statement said the three countries made “detailed conceptual presentations” across the scope of NAFTA issues and began work to negotiate some of the agreement’s texts, although it did not provide details on the topics.
Negotiating teams “agreed to provide additional text, comments or alternate proposals during the next two weeks,” ahead of the Mexico round.
The opening-round talks revealed early fissures dividing the US from Mexico and Canada, including a Trump administration proposal to require a “substantial” portion of autos and auto parts produced under the pact be made in the US, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The US said it would insist on tightening the rules of origin, and adding a provision covering American production, an idea quickly dismissed as unworkable by Mexican and Canadian officials, the Journal said.
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