NAFTA meeting on tap

Tuesday, 2018-04-17 06:27:22
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Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said a total of 10 chapters of a revised deal were now concluded or virtually settled. (Photo:Reuters)
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The ministers leading the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could meet again on April 19 in Washington as they push for quick progress, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on April 16.

Guajardo said he had spoken to Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on April 16 and would talk to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on April 17 to see about agreeing a trilateral meeting in Washington on April 19.

Teams of trade experts from the United States, Mexico and Canada have been meeting for weeks to try to narrow their differences on NAFTA, and Guajardo said a total of 10 chapters of a revised deal were now concluded or virtually settled.

But he did not expect major announcements on April 19.

Guajardo and others have said a NAFTA deal could be possible by early May, but significant differences remain on US proposals to revise content rules for the automotive sector, change dispute resolution mechanisms and other issues.

Over the past few days, the technical teams had, barring some "tiny details," finished work on chapters including telecoms, energy and technical barriers to trade, he said.

Talks to rework NAFTA, which underpins US$1.2 trillion in annual trade, began last year after President Donald Trump took office promising to abandon the 1994 agreement if it could not be reworked to better serve American interests.

Trump has threatened to use other measures, such as slapping import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, to gain leverage over Mexico and Canada in the NAFTA talks. Both countries have been initially exempted from the tariffs.

Reuters