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NAFTA Talks Halted — For Now

Talks on hold until after Mexico's presidential election July 1.

by on Jun.14, 2018

Trade representatives from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. agreed to halt talks until after July 1.

The North American Free Trade Agreement isn’t dead — yet.

The laborious pace of talks which has resulted in several missed deadlines for completion will continue, according to Canada’s top negotiator, Chrystia Freeland.

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“We decided … to continue our negotiations on NAFTA,” Freeland said after meeting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington D.C.

“We will be working hard over the summer,” she said. “We didn’t set specific dates today. We talked about following up on setting up specific dates for meetings and that is what we are going to do.”

(Trump’s spat with Canada’s Trudeau may kill NAFTA. Click Here for the story.)

The parties began talks to update the decades old agreement last fall and initially were expected to be done by the end of the year. However, President Donald Trump has been pushing for substantial changes in the deal while Mexican and Canadian officials were seeking to make some minor tweaks.

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the recent G7 Summit.

Trump, who made international trade a critical part of his presidential campaign, maintains the deal has been biased against the U.S. from the start. His steadfast commitment to this has cause some tension between the U.S. and its trading partners.

Lighthizer pushed for a deal this spring, hoping to avoid a conflict with a Mexican presidential election on July 1, Freeland said the three nations agreed they could continue the talks, Reuters reported.A Mexican source familiar with the negotiating process said officials were working to set up a fresh ministerial meeting soon after the election in Mexico, Reuters added.

(Click Here for details about Trump slapping tariffs on Canada, Mexico and EU.)

The parties still have several contentious issues to hammer out and as of now, some have no clear path to resolution, such as the Sunset cause, the source told Reuters. Negotiating teams were still engaged in technical work and were on standby. “Nobody is depressed,” the source said.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's top NAFTA negotiator, said the dustup between Trump and Trudeau doesn't help the negotiation process.

Another challenge in the talks is the tariffs the United States levied on Canadian and Mexican aluminum and steel. In fact, the move put a damper on the recent G7 meeting in Canada, although Trump denied there were issues with the other six leaders.

That was until Trump apparently had a problem with candid comments from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had once already told Trump the Canadian government would not be bullied into an agreement. Trump objected to the language used the second time around from Trudeau.

(To see why automakers believe Trump’s investigation of auto parts as a safety risk is ill-conceived, Click Here.)

Echoing the message sent by her boss, Freeland said she told Lighthizer Canada was resolute in its commitment to slapping retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods on July 1. “We will not escalate and we will also not back down,” she said.

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