November 20, 2017 | By: ERIC MARTIN, JOSH WINGROVE & ANDREW MAYEDA –
The latest Nafta talks have proven far less dramatic than the fireworks of earlier rounds, though any deal remains far off as Mexico and Canada hold out hope the U.S. will soften its demands.
The fifth round of talks, which began in Mexico City on Nov. 15 and wraps up on Tuesday, is the first held without the top trade chiefs from the three countries. That allowed the respective teams to work on the challenge of updating the more mundane facets of the nearly 2,000-page North American Free Trade Agreement, which started in 1994 and is undergoing a major overhaul.
Progress was slow over the weekend. While hundreds of hours of talks are unfolding on issues ranging from car manufacturing to telecommunications, negotiators have punted decisions on the most divisive issues to future rounds. The three countries in October extended the deadline for the talks to March, when negotiations could be complicated by elections in Mexico and later the U.S. midterms.
Still, the U.S. is frustrated with what it perceives to be the reluctance of Canada and Mexico to present counter-proposals to U.S. positions on key issues such as regional content requirements and dispute settlement, said a person close to the negotiations. American officials are especially frustrated with Canada for publicly stating that the U.S. proposals are unacceptable, without presenting alternatives at the negotiating table, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Since talks left off in October, U.S. companies and business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have mounted a campaign to mobilize Congress and convince the White House to back down from proposals they see as damaging to corporate interests. The Chamber on Friday warned that an American pullout would hit hardest some of the swing states that President Donald Trump took on his road to power.
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