U.S. blames Mexico and Canada for lack of NAFTA progress

USTR Robert Lighthizer accuses the other two countries of not engaging seriously on provisions to rebalance the agreement
Edgard Garrido/REUTERS
Miguel Pallares / Ivette Saldaña
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The fifth round of talks in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement ended without progress on key issues and with accusations thrown against the governments of Mexico and Canada.

In Washington, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he is concerned by the lack of “significant progress” and added the United States hasn't seen thus far evidence that either Canada or Mexico are willing to “seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement. Absent rebalancing, we will not reach a satisfactory result,” he warned.

However, Mexican Minister of Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, assured this was a complex process and while it is good to have alternatives, Mexico is clearly committed to a constructive negotiation.

He said Mexico didn't offer any counter-proposal regrading the dispute-solving mechanism and other key issues because, first, they want to fully understand and analyze the American proposals, such as the rules of origin for the automotive industry.

Guajardo claimed Mexico will have “clear definitions on the complicated issues” by the time the sixth round of talks launches.

The Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, said during a press conference in Ottawa, Canada, that differences still persist on several issues because they're looking to settle “a good agreement, not any agreement.”

A source in the highest levels of the American government has said to foreign journalists that the U.S. was expecting to hear counter-proposals from both, Mexico and Canada, in order to have some progress on the most sensitive topics, but that wasn't the case during the fifth round.

According to our sources, Mexico presented a contra-proposal in issues such as the textile industry and government procurement, and proposed to review NAFTA every five years instead of adding a sunset clause – a proposal Canada backed.

At the end of the fifth round, a trilateral statement was released in which the governments of the countries declared they would hold an intersessional meeting in December.

The sixth round will take place next year in Montreal, Canada, from January 23 to 28.


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