North American Free Trade Agreement made some progress to next round

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo (L-R), Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer arrive for a trilateral meeting during the third round of NAFTA talks involving the United States, Mexico and Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

Vastavam web: Officials trying to hammer out differences over how to update the North American Free Trade Agreement have made some progress and hope politicians decide the talks should continue, Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief negotiator, told Reuters on Saturday.The United States, Canada and Mexico are due to finish the sixth of seven planned rounds of NAFTA discussions on Monday, with several major issues far from being resolved.U.S. President Donald Trump, who describes the $1.2 trillion pact as a disaster, has frequently threatened to walk away from it unless major changes are made.Asked whether he thought the three ministers would decide there is enough momentum to continue with the next round, Verheul said: “Well, that’s our hope.”

Later in the day, he told reporters: “We’re moving in a slightly more positive direction. We’ll take that encouragement where we can.”A Mexican official, who asked not to be named, said “we don’t foresee a negative reaction to the round, we believe the balance will be positive.”Canada and Mexico initially dismissed some of the main U.S. demands as unworkable but later made it clear they were ready to be more flexible.During the sixth round, Canada raised what it called creative ways of meeting U.S. demands for higher North American content in autos, a sunset clause that would allow one party to quit the treaty after five years, and major changes to existing conflict resolution mechanisms.The Mexican official said that Canada’s proposals on rules of origin for autos, the sunset clause and conflict resolution mechanism were “positive, in as much as they are an attempt to move things forward.”

Speaking separately, a second Canadian government source said Ottawa was cautiously optimistic about the round, given that the U.S. side had not summarily rejected the proposals for compromise.“It’s unclear to us that anything that anyone does here will be enough … which is concerning for agriculture,” said Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-food Trade Alliance.“Our position with all the political parties is that the negotiations must go on,” said Juan Pablo Castanon, president of the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial, the umbrella group representing Mexican private sector interests at the talks.