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American ShipperShipping

Trump mulls bilateral trade deals as fourth round of NAFTA talks get underway

As trade negotiators for the United States, Canada and Mexico are meeting this week to begin the fourth round of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations, industry leaders remain nervous that the trilateral agreement will fold.

   Trade negotiators for the United States, Canada and Mexico are meeting in Arlington, Va., this week to begin the fourth round of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations.
   The round, which runs from Oct. 11-17, is expected to cover about two dozen negotiation topics.
   The negotiators said they have concluded the revisions to NAFTA’s Competition Chapter. In this chapter, the three countries agreed to obligations “providing increased procedural fairness in competition law enforcement so that parties are given a reasonable opportunity to defend their interests and ensured of certain rights and transparency under each nation’s competition laws,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.
   “Thus far, we have made good progress, and I look forward to several days of hard work,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement on Wednesday.
   Meanwhile, President Trump continues his threat for the United States to part ways with NAFTA.
   Prior to a meeting between Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on Wednesday, the president told reporters he would consider negotiating bilateral agreements with Canada and Mexico should NAFTA talks fail.
   “It’s possible we won’t be able to make a deal, and it’s possible that we will,” said Trump, according to a White House transcript of the press briefing. “We have a great personal relationship, and we have a relationship now as two countries, I think, that’s as close as ever. But we’ll see if we can do the kind of changes that we need. We have to protect our workers, and, in all fairness, the prime minister wants to protect Canada and his people also.”
   “So we’ll see what happens with NAFTA, but I’ve been opposed to NAFTA for a long time,” he added. “In terms of the fairness of NAFTA, I said we’ll renegotiate. And I think Justin understands this: If we can’t make a deal, it’ll be terminated and that will be fine. They’re going to do well; we’re going to do well, but maybe that won’t be necessary. But it has to be fair to both countries.”
   Asked specifically if he would consider negotiating individual trade deals with Canada and Mexico in the event that one or more of the three countries withdraws from NAFTA, Trump said, “Oh, sure. Absolutely. It’s possible we won’t be able to reach a deal with one or the other. But in the meantime, we’ll make a deal with one. But I think we have a chance to do something very creative that’s good for Canada, Mexico, and the United States.”
   Trudeau traveled to Mexico City today to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
   At the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue in Mexico City this week, business leaders in both countries remain concerned about the possibility of NAFTA’s demise and also spoke of strengthening bilateral trade relations between the United States and Mexico.
   “Despite the very significant challenges we face, I think it’s more important than ever that the U.S. and Mexican business communities work together to advance our agenda for a stronger, more vibrant bilateral relationship,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in prepared remarks. “The bottom line is that we cannot let the highly charged debate over NAFTA jeopardize U.S. commercial engagement in Mexico, nor can we let it eclipse other areas of opportunity.”
   The participants of the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue finalized plans to advance bilateral policy initiatives in partnership with U.S. and Mexican government officials, covering topics such as energy, financial services, trade facilitation, health, innovation, and agriculture.

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.

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