Published: Wed, October 18, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

United States trade chief says he is not focused on ending NAFTA

United States trade chief says he is not focused on ending NAFTA

USA opposition to NAFTA's dispute resolution mechanisms, plans to restrict outside access to government contracts and attacks on Canadian dairy and softwood lumber producers have further stoked the grim mood among trade officials.

Canada and Mexico have locked arms in opposition to a USA proposal that the trade agreement should come up for renewal every five years, a change meant to assure that the agreement stay up-to-date as the economies of the three countries change over time. TPP is the trade pact that President Donald Trump rejected on his first day of office.

Wages have been a contentious issue in NAFTA renegotiation talks because salaries are much lower in Mexico compared to its two northern neighbors, and the US especially has argued that it places its automotive and other manufacturing industries at a distinct disadvantage.

In a joint statement following the fourth round of talks, American, Canadian and Mexican officials said "significant conceptual gaps" will change the negotiating timeframe.

The Trump administration has proposed raising the threshold to 85 percent from the current 62 percent.

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"If they react negatively [to USA proposals], it may be enough for the U.S.to say, 'Enough, we're pulling out, '" said William Reinsch, a veteran Washington trade specialist who is a fellow at the Stimson Center think tank.

Those questioning the White House's approach to the trade talks, including business and agriculture groups, have said leaving NAFTA would cause serious damage to the US economy because the three countries are now so integrated. By Monday, Mexico's peso MXN=D2 hit a near five-month low with fears growing about the future of the deal underpinning $1.2 trillion in annual trade between the three countries.

"We couldn't accept it", the Mexican government source said Tuesday. "Because of its complex supply chains that cross both borders, the auto industry would suffer the most, with autos accounting for almost 40% of exports to Canada and 22% of exports to Mexico".

The next round of talks will take place in November in Mexico.

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