Warning: include_once(/home/nccwashi/public_html/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-phase1.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/nccwashington/public_html/wp-content/advanced-cache.php on line 10

Warning: include_once(): Failed opening '/home/nccwashi/public_html/wp-content/plugins/wp-super-cache/wp-cache-phase1.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/local/php56/pear') in /home/nccwashington/public_html/wp-content/advanced-cache.php on line 10

Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/nccwashington/public_html/wp-content/advanced-cache.php:10) in /home/nccwashington/public_html/wp-content/plugins/sg-cachepress/core/Supercacher/Supercacher_Helper.php on line 77
Third Round of NAFTA Negotiations Comes to a Close - Washington Report

The third of seven rounds of NAFTA renegotiations ended Wednesday in Ottawa, Canada, with all three countries bringing forth proposals and some of the hot-button issues coming into negotiation for the first time.

“In particular, meaningful advancements were made in the areas of telecommunications, competition policy, digital trade, good regulatory practices, and customs and trade facilitation. Parties also exchanged initial offers in the area of market access for government procurement,” said a joint statement released Wednesday by the countries’ top trade representatives, USTR’s Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

The joint statement indicated the small and medium-sized businesses chapter was largely completed and negotiators expect to finish the competition chapter prior to the next round of talks in Washington beginning October 11.

The subject of intellectual property was discussed Monday, but little progress was made as the United States is using the draft chapter from the now-exited Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a starting point for negotiation, while Canada prefers the original NAFTA text as a starting point.

In another of the biggest issues, the U.S. introduced text amending labor standards Tuesday. The text would “ensure enforceable mechanisms to raise labor standards in NAFTA but Canadian labor unions said it was inadequate,” according to Reuters. The issue of worker’s rights was also discussed, not salary targets.

The United States also put forward a proposal on an investment chapter, though it is unclear what progressed beyond the proposal.

The United States did not make proposals in Ottawa on five controversial issues: dairy market access, auto rules of origin, investor-state dispute settlement, a sunset clause and Chapter 19. As of Wednesday, the USTR communicated controversial proposals it intends to table to the relevant Congressional committees, despite other government agencies’ hesitation in moving forward with the terms.

According to PanAm Post, Washington is seeking to introduce a proposal in the next round of talks on season import bans for agricultural goods. “They want to propose conditions saying that in the season when Georgia produces strawberries or berries, Mexico is not going to be able to export, or we are going to have an equal percentage,” Bosco de la Vega, President of the National Agriculture and Livestock Council, said.

Prior to the meeting, U.S. chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Melle said “more challenging issues will start taking center stage” at the talks in Ottawa. Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator, said on Sunday both sides are making “good, solid progress.”

“We’re looking at 28 different negotiating groups at the moment,” Verheul told reporters. “The United States has made proposals in most of those. They’re not maybe all as exciting as the ones you listed, but there’s a lot of work on the table and we’re working through it.”

USTR spokeswoman Emily Davis said the negotiations were “progressing at an unprecedented pace” with the United States already presenting text in 27 NAFTA chapters in the five weeks since talks began, according to Reuters.

Lighthizer characterized the talks as moving “beyond warp speed” and that negotiations “continue at an unprecedented pace,” according to Bloomberg. Canadian and Mexican officials have complained that, while so much text has been tabled on easier issues, the United States has been slow to present proposals on the more controversial ones.

“We never said this was going to be easy,” Canada’s Freeland told reporters at the end of the five-day session, according to Reuters. “Our priority is to get to an agreement that is win-win-win.” Mexico’s Guajardo told a news conference Wednesday there would be “substantial challenges” in the next round.

The Trump administration is pushing for a renegotiated deal done by the end of the year, citing a law requiring the White House to give Congress 180-day-notice before signing new trade agreements. While notice was given Friday, making the earliest possible signing date March 22, the same law requires the text of the pact to be published 60 days before signing and 90 day Congressional notice. Thus, the agreement would have to be made between the three countries in December and the text published in January to enable signing a new pact by March 22.