World Economy

NAFTA Talks Take Acrimonious Turn

NAFTA Talks Take Acrimonious TurnNAFTA Talks Take Acrimonious Turn

President Donald Trump’s promise to renegotiate NAFTA suffered a major setback Tuesday as Canada and Mexico aligned to block some of the most controversial US proposals and the top US trade negotiator accused its partner nations of being obstructionist and unwilling to negotiate.

If all parties become entrenched in their positions, Trump has vowed to withdraw from the 23-year-old agreement altogether. That would usher in the new isolationist era that he has long threatened, potentially endangering tens of thousands of American jobs that depend on cross-border agreements for everything from manufacturing automobiles to the export of beef, reported.

The fourth round of negotiations wrapped up in the Washington area on Tuesday, and officials made clear they were at an impasse on a number of changes specifically sought by the Trump administration that dovetail with its “America First” agenda.

As a result, Canada, Mexico and the United States have agreed to delay their next round of talks by nearly a month, retreating to their respective capitals to work out “challenges” and “significant conceptual gaps among the parties” before meeting again on Nov. 17 in Mexico. Chief negotiators are then planning to meet in Washington in December, and additional rounds will be scheduled through the first quarter of 2018.

“Frankly, I am surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change from our negotiating partners,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters at a closing press briefing, as he stood at a lectern between Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo. “As difficult as this has been, we have seen no indication that our partners are willing to make any changes that will result in a rebalancing and a reduction in these huge trade deficits.”

The delay comes at the close of a fourth round of talks that saw repeated rejections from Canada and Mexico of US proposals regarding provisions on sectors such as automobiles, dairy and seasonal produce. While both Mexico and Canada expressed a willingness to remain at the negotiating table as long as talks continue, they also remained steadfast in their opposition to proposals that Washington has indicated are top priorities.

US proposals that are causing anxiety for Canada, Mexico and much of the business community would significantly raise regional content requirements for autos and auto parts, with a separate requirement for domestic US content; eliminate a dispute settlement mechanism for unfair trade practices; limit Canadian and Mexican companies’ ability to bid for US government contracts; and institute a sunset provision that would subject the agreement to a renewal process every five years.

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