World Economy

US Trade Officials Meet Auto Executives

US Trade Officials Meet Auto Executives US Trade Officials Meet Auto Executives

US trade officials met with auto industry executives in Washington on Tuesday, three sources said, as talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement try to make progress on a major sticking point around vehicle production.

The US negotiator handling ‘rules of origin’ for automobiles, Jason Bernstein, unexpectedly returned to Washington for consultations soon after the seventh round of NAFTA talks between the United States, Mexico and Canada began in Mexico City on Sunday, Reuters reported.

Three people familiar with the matter said representatives from the office of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would hold separate meetings with executives from Ford and General Motors later in the day.

Ford said in a statement it had an ongoing dialogue about the importance of NAFTA with the government, with an emphasis on enforceable rules prohibiting currency manipulation.

A GM spokesman said: “These regular meetings with USTR happen in the context of any major trade agreement to assure that GM’s point of view is heard.”

The GM meeting lasted less than an hour and was a routine meeting that did not discuss any major breakthroughs or policy changes, according to one of the sources, who was briefed on the meetings.

Time is running out to agree a new NAFTA before a Mexican presidential vote and US mid-term congressional elections later this year. The administration of US President Donald Trump has put forward an aggressive set of proposals that are complicating progress.

Among those proposals is a demand that seeks to guarantee that the United States gets more of the world’s auto business by ensuring that more of the finished product is produced in North America.

Officials have said they do not expect a major breakthrough on the auto issue during the current round of talks, though some in attendance were encouraged by the signs of greater US discussion of rules of origin—even if that part of the round is now on hold while Bernstein is in Washington.

Kenneth Smith, Mexico’s chief NAFTA negotiator, said he hoped Bernstein would quickly return to Mexico City, where rules of origin discussions were meant to last from Sunday to Tuesday.

Smith said there had been “a lot of progress” on other NAFTA chapters involving telecommunications, digital commerce, technical barriers to trade and regulatory practices.

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