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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United States, Mexico and Canada signed non-disclosure agreements before the first round of negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico’s Economy Ministry said on Friday.
Initial talks between Mexico, the United States and Canada to update NAFTA ended in Washington last weekend amid signs of deep division on key issues. Further discussions are due to start in Mexico City on Sept. 1.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday launched the first salvo in the renegotiation of the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying its top priority for the talks was shrinking the U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico.
In a much-anticipated document sent to lawmakers, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he would seek to reduce the trade imbalance by improving access for U.S. goods exported to Canada and Mexico under the three-nation pact.
Reuters (through the St. Louis Post Dispatch)
“While a great deal of effort and negotiation will be required in the coming months, Canada, Mexico and the United States are committed to an accelerated and comprehensive negotiation process that will upgrade our agreement,” the officials said. One person directly involved in the talks described the schedule as exceedingly fast, given that past trade deals took years to negotiate. The three countries are trying to complete a full modernization of the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement by early 2018, before Mexico’s national election campaign starts.
The joint statement said the three countries had made “detailed conceptual presentations” across the scope of NAFTA issues and had begun work to negotiate some of the agreement’s texts, although it did not provide details on the topics. Negotiating teams “agreed to provide additional text, comments or alternative proposals during the next two weeks” ahead of the Mexico round.
Not all cards were put on the table, the source added, saying that during four four-hour sessions on rules of origin, the United States did not reveal its proposed targets for boosting North American and U.S. content for the automotive sector.
Lighthizer had made clear that strengthening rules of origin for autos — the biggest source of U.S. trade deficits — was one of his top priorities.
But the United States did reveal extensive texts governing cross-border data flows and e-commerce, said Kenneth Propp, the trade policy director for BSA-The Software Alliance, a group on USTR’s trade advisory committee.
The NAFTA countries already had made broad agreements guaranteeing cross-border data flows and other digital trade as part of the now-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“Our sense is that there should be a lot of commonality as a starting point on this subject,” Propp said.
Whoopsie – During a debriefing session between Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Canadian politicians and business leaders, the chief NAFTA negotiator for Canada Steve Verheul accidentally told the group, while cameras were rolling, there were no actual NAFTA negotiations taking place.