Senior ministers from the three North American Free Trade (NAFTA) agreement countries are meeting in Washington this week amid growing signs of optimism that they could find common ground on the toughest issues. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is meeting with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts today, the first such high-level trilateral negotiation session since March 5.

Lighthizer meet with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guarjardo for dinner last night in Washington before the trio meet for the formal session today.  Freeland said the three countries are “making some good progress.”

“We’re working very hard on NAFTA with Mexico and Canada.  We’ll have something, I think, fairly soon,” President Trump said yesterday.  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a similar tone, saying Thursday that talks “are moving forward in a significant way.”

However, the majority of NAFTA chapters remain unfinished and key issues unresolved after months of talks.  President Trump’s decision to send National Guard troops to the border has apparently touched a nerve in Mexico.  All four candidates running in Mexico’s July presidential election have condemned the troop deployment plan.  In turn, the candidates were praised by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto for their stance.

In terms of the talks, the United States is said to have softened its demands on the auto sector, a crucial area of discussion, but still is seeking controversial concessions on dairy and a sunset clause.


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