By David Ljunggren and Dave Graham
MEXICO CITY, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Negotiators at high stakes
talks to update NAFTA have so far kept their tempers but are not
making much progress on tough U.S. demands that could sink the
1994 trade pact, a well-placed source said on Saturday.
Officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico are
meeting in Mexico City for the fifth of seven planned rounds to
update the North American Free Trade Agreement, which U.S.
President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from.
Time is running short to seal a deal by the deadline of
end-March 2018. Officials say next year's Mexican presidential
election means talks after that date will not be possible.
The U.S. administration has made a series of demands that
the other members say are unacceptable, such as a five-year
sunset clause and tightening so-called rules of origin to boost
the North American content of autos to 85 percent from the
current 62.5 percent.
"It is very slow moving but there are no fireworks," said a
Canadian source with knowledge of the talks, adding there had
"not been much conversation at all" on the more contentious U.S.
Officials have so far discussed other issues such as labor,
gender, intellectual property, energy and telecommunications but
it is too soon to say whether there will be any breakthroughs
during this round, added the source. The talks are due to end
Though the mood in the fifth round has been calmer than the
tense scenes seen last month during the fourth round in
Arlington, Virginia, the negotiations are now beyond the halfway
point of an initial schedule with few clear signs of process.
Mexican officials say they hope chapters on
telecommunications and e-commerce will be concluded in the fifth
round, but there has been no indication of this yet.
Although negotiators are scheduled to discuss rules of
origin every day starting Saturday, the source said detailed
talks on boosting North American content would not be held
before the end of the round.
Canada and Mexico say the new rules of origin are unworkable
and would damage the highly-integrated auto industry.
"I hope the United States understands there are things ...
that Mexico won't accept, and (I hope) the negotiating process
becomes more rational," Moises Kalach, head of the international
negotiating arm of Mexico's CCE business lobby, told Reuters
late on Friday.
The U.S. Trade Representative's office on Friday revised its
official objectives to conform to demands that it currently has
on the negotiating table.
The move prompted U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat
on the Senate Finance Committee, to remove a "hold" he had put
in place to block the confirmation of two Trump administration
nominees for deputy USTR positions, a Wyden aide said.
Wyden complained the trade office had been keeping members
of Congress "in the dark" about its tactics and was not in
compliance with U.S. trade negotiating laws.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder, Adriana Barrera and Noe
Torres in Mexico City; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
First Published: 2017-11-18 01:06:40
Updated 2017-11-18 21:09:59
© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.