Update on 5th round of NAFTA talks; 6th round to take place in January 2018 in Montreal

The fifth round of NAFTA talks are happening now (Nov. 18-22) in Mexico City.

On November 18, Reuters reported, "Officials [from Canada, the United States and Mexico] 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 this round, added a source familiar with the talks."

iPolitics adds, "The Trump administration on Friday [Nov. 18] issued revised NAFTA negotiating objectives, largely to reflect demands that it has already made in the talks. These include new language in line with proposals to radically change dispute settlement systems, eliminate Canadian dairy tariffs and allow U.S. protections for seasonal produce growers hurt by Mexican imports."

More specifically:
1- Procurement CBC reports, "A source with direct knowledge of the talks said procurement was discussed on the first day of talks, and that the U.S. is showing no flexibility on its position, which is reported to be that Canada and Mexico's access should be on a 'dollar-for-dollar' basis." The Canadian Press adds, "There was a lack of movement on Buy American rules, as attempts to get the U.S. to budge yielded nothing."

2- Labour standards CBC notes, "Mexico is also using this round to resist accepting changes to labour standards, the source said. A big point of contention for Canada and the U.S. is the lack of strong labour standards in Mexico, which allows workers there to be paid a fraction of what they would earn elsewhere. The Americans are seeking dramatic improvements on this front, in the hopes of reducing its trade deficit with Mexico."

3- Rules of origin CBC also notes, "Negotiators are also tackling rules of origin, with the source saying time has been set aside every day to discuss the topic. However, the most controversial aspect of this issue, American proposals to boost the overall North American content requirements from 62.5 per cent to 85 per cent in the auto sector, are not expected to come up this round. The source says negotiators will be examining the frameworks that regulate other industries."

4- Supply management The Canadian Press reports, "Agriculture began four days of talks but people familiar with the negotiations downplayed the likelihood that Canada would offer a response to American requests on dairy at this round."

5- Food safety regulations and other issues The Globe and Mail reports, "Negotiators are making progress on less contentious portions of the North American free-trade agreement – such as slashing red tape for exporters and standardizing food-safety regulations between the three countries – while punting the more difficult ones to future rounds of talks. ...Other areas the trading partners hope to advance before the round ends on Tuesday include an expansion of the deal to cover digital commerce and provisions to make it easier for financial services companies to do cross-border business."

6- Five-year sunset clause The Canadian Press also notes, "Canada and Mexico expressed a willingness to discuss the U.S. demand for a review of NAFTA every five years. They insisted, however, that it not include a clause that would automatically cancel NAFTA unless everyone agrees to renew it."

A further more detailed overview by our ally William Waren, senior trade analyst at Friends of the Earth U.S., can be read here.

In terms of what will happen next, The Globe and Mail reports, "Negotiators will reconvene for more technical discussions in Washington next month, followed by the next full round of talks in Ottawa in January."

Reuters adds, "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." And National Post columnist John Ivison notes, "There is a growing belief in the Trudeau government that Trump’s attempts to blow up NAFTA will end up in a stalemate with Congress, ensuring that the status quo prevails."

To join a Council of Canadians webinar on NAFTA on November 22 (the day after the 5th round of talks conclude), please click here.

#EndISDS #ReplaceNAFTA #ABetterNAFTA