Negotiations are progressing but few details were forthcoming after the second round of talks on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) wrapped up yesterday in Mexico City.
But representatives of Mexico, the United States and Canada praised the work by their negotiating teams, overshadowing U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to pull out of the accord, and indicated their shared commitment to concluding the talks by the end of the year.
Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo told a joint press conference that all three NAFTA partners are pushing forward “to present the first results in Canada” during the third round of negotiations, scheduled for September 23-27 in Ottawa.
“We’ve instructed our chief negotiators to commit to defining what we call the closest chapters in order to start seeing results during the third round.”
More than 20 working groups moved the discussion forward through the exchange of information and proposals, resulting in their consolidation into a single document, from which the negotiating teams will work in subsequent negotiation rounds, he said.
“The three countries will continue their own internal discussions in preparations for the next meeting,” Guajardo said.
The three NAFTA partners reasserted their commitment to an “accelerated and thorough negotiation, with the shared goal of concluding all negotiations by the year’s end. The successful conclusion of these negotiations will update NAFTA with new regulations that will create important financial opportunities for the region, boosting the growth and benefitting the three countries.”
Guajardo gave the press conference with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Lighthizer said his country is focused on expanding North America’s opportunities in agriculture, services and the innovative industries of North America. Although his tone was more upbeat that it was when talks began last month, he said a deal must benefit all U.S. citizens. “We want to set up agreements that benefit all United States citizens and not just some at the expense of others,” Bloomberg reported.
“We feel like we’ve done as much as you could hope to do in two rounds,” he said. “I expect when I finish this agreement that the president will be supportive of it, because I’m not going to agree to things that he’s not supportive of.”
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told the press conference that the shared goal is to reach an agreement that benefits all. “We also want a win-win agreement,” she said.
Guajardo told reporters later that progress had been made on small and medium-sized businesses and telecommunications topics but more difficult subjects such as rules of origin and trade deficits have not been addressed.
Intervening in labor markets is another sticky issue on which there is disagreement, he said. The U.S. and Canada want Mexico to ensure better conditions for its workers.
The fast-track negotiations are intended to avoid election conflicts in 2018, when Mexico elects a new president and the United States renews most of its members of Congress.