NAFTA renegotiation talks stall on crucial disagreements

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Talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement have hit a roadblock, with representatives having difficulty reconciling the priorities of the US with those of Canada and Mexico.

Efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have hit a stumbling block after the fourth round of talks concluded with key points of contention remaining unaddressed.

Running from October 11th to 17th in Arlington, Virginia, the member nations stated that the latest round of discussions highlighted "significant conceptual gaps" between the three parties, specifically in terms of what the US hopes to achieve from negotiating NAFTA and the stance taken by Canada and Mexico.

The deal has been a point of contention ever since the election of president Donald Trump, who has stridently criticized the agreement for taking jobs away from the US and handing Canada and Mexico disproportionate competitive advantages.

US trade representative Robert Lighthizer adopted a hardline stance in his closing statement, saying he is "surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change" displayed by Canada and Mexico in helping the US reduce the trade deficits that it has attributed to NAFTA.

Mr Lighthizer said: "We have seen no indication that our partners are willing to make any changes that will result in a rebalancing and a reduction in these huge trade deficits.

"Now, I understand that after many years of one-sided benefits, their companies have become reliant on special preferences and not just comparative advantage. Countries are reluctant to give up unfair advantage."

However, Canadian foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland has stated that the US' stance threatens to reverse several decades of efforts to promote freer trade between the North American nations, while Mexican secretary of the economy Ildefonso Guajardo said future talks need to be respectful of the limits of all three nations.

Following these talks, it has been agreed that a longer intersessional period will take place before the next negotiating round, giving more time to assess all the proposals. Mexico will host the fifth round of talks in Mexico City from November 17th to 21st, with additional rounds planned for the first quarter of 2018.