Trump says in 'no rush' to get NAFTA deal

Marco Green
August 19, 2018

Top Mexican officials started their fourth week of talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington over a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

US Trade Rep Lighthizer says that he is "hopeful" for a breakthrough on NAFTA with the next few days, and Pres. Trump shoots back "OK if there is no breakthrough".

In recent comments, Trump administration officials have said NAFTA could remain a trilateral deal with an overall agreement among the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Trump himself said he was in "no rush" to conclude the talks, repeating his oft-stated complaint that the 24-year-old trade agreement had been a "disaster" for the United States. "If we don't have a breakthrough, don't do the deal".

He added that they would resume talks on Friday, but the sunset provision would be among the "very last items" to be dealt with in the talks. President Trump has frequently threatened to withdraw from NAFTA, linked the renegotiations to his call for a wall along the U.S.

"If the USA wanted a bilateral deal - and they don't, they've repeated often they want a trilateral deal - they don't have legal authority". Mexico wants to lock in an agreement before its new leftist president takes office, and the White House is keen on achieving a win on trade ahead of the midterm elections.

President Trump recently lashed out with a new automobile related tariff threat against Canada, who at this time is sitting on the sidelines of the negotiation process, while retaliating against the steel and aluminum tariffs the US slapped on them a few months ago.

Guajardo has stressed that the most hard issues had been left to the end, including the United States demand that NAFTA be approved every five years, a provision known as a sunset clause. Mexico's new president, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, was elected in July and takes the oath of office December 1. If the Trump administration got its way the effect would be to pressure auto makers to shift a lot more production to the US from Canada and Mexico, an outcome neither of those two countries is willing to accept. Some are optimistic, and think that a deal could be reached by the end of August 2018, while others are realistic, and feel that this bilateral, then maybe trilateral, then bilateral, possibly unilateral negotiation will end sometime mid 2019.

"Minister Freeland, Ambassador (David) MacNaughton and the Canadian negotiating team are in regular contact with their counterparts and we look forward to continuing these important discussions in the coming weeks", Adam Austen wrote in an email.

NAFTA's current rules specify that at least 62.5 percent of the content of cars come from North America to qualify for zero tariffs; anything lower than that threshold subjects a vehicle to a 2.5 percent duty for cars and 25 percent for trucks and sport utility vehicles. Trump had directed most of his ire at Mexico because the US carries an average $60 billion annual trade deficit with its southern neighbor. "So, if you can't make the right deal, don't make it".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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