NAFTA negotiators wrap up first round of talks

Elias Hubbard
August 21, 2017

Additional rounds are being planned "for the remainder of the year", the countries said.

Still, that's a blinding pace for trade negotiations.

Almost a third of Canadian small- and medium-sized firms say they are concerned about potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

While US trade with its NAFTA partners has more than tripled since the agreement took effect in 1994, Trump blames the pact for gutting US manufacturing and sending factory jobs to Mexico.

Derek Scissors, resident scholar at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute think tank, told the Post that the results of renegotiating Nafta may have implications for future trade deals with China, such as in the protection of intellectual property.

The most basic risk is that the NAFTA talks are not merely a technocratic exercise, but a political one. It is possible that upon the talks' completion, Trump would back his NAFTA negotiating team and declare a win. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, can't run again because of term limits. Even if the three countries can come up with a new and improved agreement by early 2018 and agree on a timetable for submission to their respective legislatures - which may also prove to be an obstacle to final approval - it's not a foregone conclusion that Trump will be convinced by their recommendations.

We start of with what is Mr Trump's principal objective and that's to create jobs.

Although the United States has insisted for months that it wants to toughen the rules for the amount of North American content in vehicles and auto parts, US negotiators did not present specific details in their initial meetings on the topic, said a source directly familiar with the situation.

The NAFTA countries already had made broad agreements guaranteeing cross-border data flows and other digital trade as part of the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Round 1 of talks included each of the three sides discussing their expectations about the "rules of origins" issue, according to a Mexican government official.

Despite the negotiators' desire to move the talks quickly, experts argue that trade is inherently complicated. A further 42 percent of respondents said that they were unsure of how NAFTA talks would impact their business, because there "had not been enough information for them to make a sound decision".

"I want to be clear that [President Trump] is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters", Lighthizer said. Getting the content right for the NAFTA renegotiations will be critically important, but focusing only on the process' technical portion misses the more fundamental and persistent political risks that still loom large.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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