Third Round of NAFTA Negotiations Conclude
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mexican Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo, and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer concluded the third round of the renegotiation and modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) yesterday. The round took place in Ottawa, Canada, from September 23 to 27, 2017.
The negotiators said they “made significant progress in several areas through the consolidation of text proposals, narrowing gaps, and agreeing to elements of the negotiating text,” according to a statement released by the three. The negotiators are now working from consolidated texts in most areas, the added, “demonstrating a commitment from all parties to advance discussions in the near term.”
Meaningful advancements were made in the areas of telecommunications, competition policy, digital trade, good regulatory practices, and customs and trade facilitation, according to the statement. The parties also exchanged initial offers in the area of market access for government procurement.
Substantive discussions in the area of small and medium-sized enterprises were completed in this round. The chapter on SMEs in a modernized NAFTA “will serve to support the growth and development of SMEs by enhancing their ability to participate in and benefit from the opportunities created by this agreement, including through cooperative activities, information sharing, and the establishment of a NAFTA Trilateral SME Dialogue, involving the private sector, non-government organizations, and other stakeholders,” the statement said.
“It’s very, very important that we completed this chapter,” said USTR Robert Lighthizer. “These businesses are the engines that drive each of our economies. They represent great ingenuity and hard work, turning businesses into dreams and into reality. They employ millions of our citizens. And, when they look to trade internationally, they first look to trading in North America.”
The negotiators are also working on modernizing other aspects of the agreement that would benefit SMEs, including customs and trade facilitation, digital trade, and good regulatory practices. Discussions also touched upon energy trade, gender and indigenous peoples.
“There is an enormous amount of work to be done, including on some very difficult and contentious issues,” said Lighthizer. “We continue to push for ways that will reduce the US trade deficit.”
A fourth round of talks in Washington, DC, is slated for October 11 to 15.