The current round of Nafta talks are proceeding with a certain degree of civility, according to some participants, even though there has not been much progress in the negotiations in Mexico to restructure the pact due to tough stand taken by the U.S. and its demands which could bring down the 1994 trade pact.
U.S. President Donald Trump had earlier threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and this has resulted in representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico getting together in Mexico City for the latest round of talks which is the fifth of seven rounds planned for bringing in changes to the trade deal.
The deadline is seal the deal is end of March 2018 and there is not much time left. Official say that talks after the Mexican presidential election, scheduled next year, would not be possible.
Demands such as the tightening of the so-called rules of origin for boosting the North American content of autos and the five-year “sunset” clause, made by the U.S. are not acceptable, say the other two member countries.
“It is very slow moving but there are no fireworks,” said a Canadian source with knowledge of the talks, said the media. The sources further added that there had “not been much conversation at all” on the more contentious U.S. proposals.
Canada complained of the inflexibility of the U.S., just hours into the latest round of talks.
Sources have further said that whether there would be any form of agreement is too early to predict, even though issues like telecommunications, intellectual property, energy, labor and gender have been discussed so far.
“The work is moving forward,” Mexican deputy economy minister Juan Carlos Baker told reporters. Technical work has been prioritized by the three countries Mexico City, Baker added.
But he said negotiators were aware that much work lay ahead and “we have to double our efforts.”
“The atmosphere is good, the atmosphere is one of work,” Baker added.
The US had revealed their tough demands in the talks that were held in Arlington, Virginia, which resulted in tense scenes during last month. This round of talks is however much calmer. Yet, there are few clear signs of progress even though the negotiations have gone past the halfway point of an initial schedule.
While there have been no indications so far, hope has been expressed by Mexican officials about conclusion of the chapters on telecommunications and e-commerce by Tuesday.
Media reports claimed that it would not be before the end of the round on Tuesday that detailed talks on boosting of North American content in cars could be held even though ‘rules of origin’ issue is scheduled to be discussed every day.
The highly-integrated auto industry would be damaged as the new rules of origin are unworkable, says Canada and Mexico.
“I hope the United States understands there are things … that Mexico won’t accept, and (I hope) the negotiating process becomes more rational,” Moises Kalach, head of the international negotiating arm of Mexico’s CCE business lobby, told Reuters.
(Adapted from Reuters)