NAFTA Update: Ministers Eye January Meeting in Canada; December Talks Set for D.C.

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Chief negotiators in talks to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward at the end of the fifth round of negotiations last week in Mexico City.

Ministers for the United States, Canada and Mexico have agreed to hold the sixth round of negotiations in Montreal, Canada from January 23–28, 2018.

Meanwhile, negotiators will continue discussions in intersessional meetings in Washington, D.C. later this month. According to news reports, the intersessional meetings are scheduled for December 11–15.

The ministers did not attend the November 17–21 round of discussions.

Public statements by Mexican and Canadian officials indicate progress has been made on topics like telecommunications, digital trade/e-commerce, sanitary rules, and the environment.

Among the contentious subjects surfacing in news accounts are government contracts, the North American content of autos, dairy, and the handling of disputes.

In a statement released upon the conclusion of the fifth round, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, “While we have made progress on some of our efforts to modernize NAFTA, I remain concerned about the lack of headway. Thus far, we have seen no evidence that Canada or Mexico are willing to seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement. Absent rebalancing, we will not reach a satisfactory result.”

CalChamber Position

The California Chamber of Commerce urges a quick and efficient process, and one that does not hinder ongoing trade and investment among the three NAFTA members who must be kept united in the same end-goal of a successful renegotiation.

With the Mexican Presidential election and U.S. mid-term elections in 2018, it was originally hoped the negotiations would be concluded this year. Now, negotiators are looking to extend the remaining rounds through the first quarter of 2018.

In response to the pending conversation of withdrawal from the agreement, the business community states that such an action would result in higher tariffs, loss of jobs, and fewer consumer choices along with increased prices.

Withdrawing from NAFTA also would make it much less likely that trading partners would want to participate in future trade agreements with the current administration. Meanwhile, other nations continue to pursue free trade agreements around the world that exclude the United States.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling

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Susanne T. Stirling
About Susanne T. Stirling
Susanne T. Stirling, vice president, international affairs, has headed the CalChamber’s International Trade Department since 1982. She serves on the District Export Council (appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce), the National Export Council Steering Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce International Committee, and the Chile-California Council. She studied at the University of Copenhagen and holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of the Pacific. She earned an M.A. from the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California.