NAFTA talks postponed amid sharp disagreements

October 19, 2017: The fourth round of talks for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations wrapped up in Washington this week. The next round of talks has been postponed until November 17-21 in Mexico City and negotiations are expected to continue into 2018.

The US wants to reduce their trade deficit and ‘rebalance’ what US Trade Negotiator Robert Lighthizer describes as a ‘very lopsided’ agreement. Mr Lighthizer said this week he was ‘disappointed by the resistance to change’ from some negotiating parties.

Business representatives have balked at the US administration’s proposals, which include increased local content requirements, a performance review after five years, and voluntary ‘opt-in’ investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Recently, over 100 US trade associations have urged US negotiators to strengthen ISDS. But unions and community groups want the US to exclude ISDS from the agreement.

Meanwhile, US negotiators are bemused that slabs of text from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that they want to include in NAFTA are being rejected ‘in spite of the countries having agreed to it in the past.’ It is an indication that, although the US has withdrawn from the TPP,  it expects its trading partners to be comfortable repeating some TPP provisions in  future bilateral agreements.