MEXICO CITY: Negotiators overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement said Tuesday they would have “results” by the end of the month, but left some of the stickiest issues hanging as they wrapped up their latest talks.
After five days of negotiations in Mexico City — their second round — the United States, Mexico and Canada still had no concrete details to report on their revamp of the 23-year-old trade deal.
But they promised progress by the end of the next round, scheduled for September 23 to 27 in Ottawa, Canada.
“We have instructed our chief negotiators to commit to defining the chapters that are closest to completion so we can start seeing the first results at the third round of talks,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told a press conference.
US President Donald Trump, who demanded the renegotiation, renewed his scathing attacks on NAFTA in the buildup to the second round, blaming the deal for US job losses — a regular theme during his campaign — and saying the US would “end up probably terminating” it.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was more conciliatory in Mexico City, reporting that “we have found mutual agreement on many important issues.”
But he also echoed some of Trump’s rhetoric on Mexico’s impact on the US manufacturing sector.
“We also must address the needs of those harmed by the current NAFTA, especially our manufacturing workers. We must have a trade agreement that benefits all Americans, and not just some at the expense of others,” he said.
“I am hopeful we can arrive at an agreement that helps American workers, farmers and ranchers while also raising the living standards of workers in Mexico and Canada.”
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland for her part said negotiators were working toward a “win-win-win” deal.
Thorny issues were left unsettled, however, including the $64 billion US trade deficit with Mexico and the “rules of origin.”
The United States is pushing to change these rules, including those governing the hotly debated auto sector. It has floated the idea of requiring a certain percentage of cars’ components to be built in the US in order to remain duty-free.
Guajardo told journalists no official US proposal had yet been tabled on either issue.