Opportunity to reach NAFTA deal this month, Mexican envoy says

19 August, 2018, 17:22 | Author: Billie Castillo
  • Top US Trade Official Hopes for NAFTA 'Breakthrough' in Days

For four straight weeks, USA trade czar Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo have held bilateral NAFTA talks while Canada has been absent from the bargaining table.

During the cabinet meeting, Lighthizer told the room he's hoping for a NAFTA breakthrough with Mexico in the coming days.

"I'm in no rush", Mr. Trump said.

Guajardo was joined by Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, Mexico's chief Nafta negotiator Kenneth Smith, and Jesus Seade, the designated chief trade negotiator of incoming Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The United States has sought tougher rules on what percentage of a vehicle's components need to be built in the Nafta region to avoid tariffs, as well as demanding that a certain number of cars and trucks be made in factories paying at least US$16 an hour.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer gestures as he testifies before Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2019 for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2018.

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FILE PHOTO: The flags of Canada, Mexico and the USA are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico, March 5, 2018. Mexico's new president, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, was elected in July and takes the oath of office December 1. Both Mexico and Canada have said they reject the measure. A major change sought by the White House is the manner in which NAFTA calculates the regional content of where a new vehicle or truck is manufactured.

Trump added that NAFTA has "been a disaster for our country".

Mexico remains "cautiously optimistic", according to Politico, that an agreement can be reached, possibly by the end of this month.

U.S. -Canada negotiations will have to overcome the recent deterioration in bilateral relations following Trump's refusal to give Canada an exemption from steel and aluminum tariffs, and harsh criticisms directed at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Trump and his trade advisor, Peter Navarro.

Some auto industry executives have said the United States and Mexico are close to a deal to increase North American automotive content thresholds, with substantial requirements for content produced in high wage areas, namely the United States and Canada. The key issues the US and Mexico are working on include what percentage of auto industry components need to be made in North America to avoid tariffs, and how many cars and trucks need to be made in factories paying higher wages.

Lawyer Ujczo said those changes and a broader deal on NAFTA will play very well to Trump's base.



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