U.S. trade representative says he's 'surprised' as Nafta talks pushed into 2018

"As retailers, we strongly urge all parties to preserve the parts of NAFTA that work for American businesses and to avoid proposals that would damage the USA economy and hurt American families".

At the same press conference after a fourth round of talks, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said some of the Nafta proposals would have run counter to World Trade Organization rules.

Vanessa Rubio, Mexico's deputy finance minister, took the tensions in stride saying, "we're in the normal process of a free trade negotiation".

"Frankly, I am surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change by our negotiating partners on both fronts", Lighthizer said. "We have seen a refusal to accept what is clearly the best text available".

Mexico and Canada have repeatedly and publicly denounced USA demands as the fourth round of talks concludes. A fifth round of negotiations will take place in Mexico City starting November 17, with a "longer intersessional period" before it to consider the proposals. Negotiations are now expected to go into the first three months of 2018, according to Lighthizer.

Canadian and Mexican officials have privately panned the so-called sunset provision, as has the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose leader called it a "poison pill" proposal that could undo NAFTA because it would insert uncertainty in a pact whose aim is partly to provide certainty in commerce.

Wages have been a contentious issue in NAFTA renegotiation talks because salaries are much lower in Mexico compared to its two northern neighbors, and the US especially has argued that it places its automotive and other manufacturing industries at a distinct disadvantage. Since it was implemented, Mexico's unemployment has risen and the deal put about two million small-scale Mexican farmers out of business, forcing many of them to migrate to the United States looking for work. Guajardo, Mexico's top negotiator, had already made his opposition clear to the other proposal on auto production. It governs how much of a vehicle has to be manufactured in North American to avoid import taxes in the three countries that make up NAFTA. Currently, vehicles that are manufactured with at least 62.5% of contents from any combination of the three countries can be shipped from one NAFTA nation to another without paying duties. It doesn't matter if the vehicle parts are made in Mexico, Canada or the United States, as long as they were produced in North America. The U.S. also proposed that half of the parts that come from North America must originate from the United States.

  • Joey Payne