The seventh round of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) concluded on Monday, March 5 without a major breakthrough on the bulk of NAFTA negotiating chapters.  However, it was reported that some progress was made on sanitary and phytosanitary measures.  Round eight of the negotiations will be held in the United States in early April.

U.S. Trade Representatives Robert Lighthizer said the round did not offer the progress that many had hoped for.  To complete NAFTA, Liththizer said the countries involved need agreement on roughly 30 chapters.  “So far, after seven months, we have completed just six.  Now, granted these things tend to converge more toward the end of a negotiation,” Lighthizer said.

Lighthizer also stressed the need to move more quickly since time is running short.  On July 1, Mexico will choose a new president.  In addition, Ontario and Quebec have elections scheduled later this year, while the United States faces midterm elections in November.   “All this complicates our work,” Lighthizer said.  “I fear that the longer we proceed, the more political headwinds we will feel.”  Once an agreement is reached, U.S. laws require additional steps before an agreement can be considered by Congress.

Meanwhile, tensions between Mexico and the United States over steel concerns have been reported after President Trump’s announcement on steal and aluminum import tariffs.  Mexico’s Economy Minister met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Lighthizer during a hastily arranged visit to Washington, as a result of the president’s announcement.