Officials from the US, Canada and Mexico have expressed confidence that positive progress is being made on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican economic minister Ildefonso Guajardo are meeting in Washington, DC to discuss potential steps that could be taken to bring the prolonged talks over a new-look NAFTA deal to a conclusion, with negotiations having commenced in August last year.
The renegotiation of NAFTA is taking place at the behest of US president Donald Trump, who has blamed the free trade pact for the loss of US manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Significant differences have emerged between the three partners over the course of the talks, leading President Trump to threaten to pull out of the deal completely if a compromise cannot be found.
At present, discussions are centered on updated rules for the automotive sector, with the US pushing for the amount of North American auto content to be increased to 75 per cent from the current 62.5 per cent over a period of four years for light vehicles. It is also stipulating that 40 per cent of the value of light passenger vehicles and 45 per cent for pickup trucks be built in areas with higher average wages.
These proposals have been met with disapproval from Mexican officials, due to concerns that this would benefit the US at the expense of Canada and Mexico. Continued disagreements over issues such as this have meant that a substantial breakthrough on a new NAFTA deal is not yet on the horizon.
However, ministers have stated that the current tone of the talks remains positive, with Mexico's Minister Guajardo describing the recent meeting as "productive", while noting: "We're still trying to find ways to fix things and make proposals that we can all live with."
Ms Freeland added: "We are definitely making progress. I am not going to predict the day, hour and minute that we will be finished. We are certainly very, very hard at work, negotiators from all three sides."