Latest Round of NAFTA Talks Ends Without Breakthrough

Senior officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico ended the latest round of talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement without any major breakthroughs on how to renegotiate the deal.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Friday after a week of talks in Washington that the United States will continue to work with its partners to update the 1994 trade pact. 

“The United States is ready to continue working with Mexico and Canada to achieve needed breakthroughs on these objectives,” he said.

The talks involved all three of the top officials in the NAFTA negotiations: Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

The talks have come under increased pressure to produce a deal quickly after U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said this week he would need to be notified of a new agreement by May 17 to give the current Congress a chance to pass it this year.

Guajardo said Friday that revising the deal will take time. “We’re not going to sacrifice the quality of an agreement because of pressure of time. We’ll keep engaged,” he said.

Freeland echoed those comments. “The negotiations will take as long as it takes to get a good deal.”

She told reporters that there was a long “to-do” list to finish a renegotiation of NAFTA, but said the talks were making progress.

U.S. President Donald Trump again heaped criticism on NAFTA during a meeting with auto executives Friday at the White House. “NAFTA has been a horrible, horrible disaster for this country. And we’ll see if we can make it reasonable,” he said.

Trump has long criticized NAFTA, blaming it for the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs that hurt the U.S. economy.

The auto industry has featured prominently in the NAFTA talks, with one of the key sticking points being a U.S. demand to increase the U.S.-made components in vehicles that receive duty-free status in NAFTA.

Trump praised Fiat Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne on Friday for plans to move production of its popular Dodge Ram truck back to the United States from Mexico.

“Right now, he’s my favorite man in the room,” Trump said.

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