NAFTA Negotiations Resume In Washington, D.C.; Auto Industry Remains In Dispute

Talks aimed at revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resumed Tuesday with the U.S., Canada and Mexico pushing to reach a deal by June 1.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the automotive industry remains the primary sticking point in the NAFTA negotiations as the negotiating teams for the three countries began an eighth round of talks in Washington, D.C.

“We have had some very energetic and productive conversations,” Minister Freeland told reporters in Washington on Tuesday morning. “We are certainly in a more intense period of negotiations, and we are making good progress.”

This week’s talks are set to be the broadest and biggest yet. Topics to be covered include automotive rules, agriculture and legal and institutional matters such as dispute settlement mechanisms.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has been pushing for a deal by early May. That would meet U.S. timelines for having an agreement approved, at the latest, by the lame-duck session that will follow midterm congressional elections in November.

However, the Canadian leaders have been tempering expectations, with Minister Freeland saying a deal by June 1 is more realistic and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warning that recent signs of progress don’t mean a deal is imminent.

“There’s positive advances that have been made, but it’s not over till it’s over,” Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters at a Liberal Party convention in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Saturday.