Trump’s trade chief clashes with Canada, Mexico in NAFTA talks


Jan. 29, 2018

By Doug Palmer and Adam Behsudi

The high-stakes NAFTA talks appear to be finally headed on a slow-but-steady forward course, but negotiators remain under pressure to deliver quick results to alleviate the threat of President Donald Trump withdrawing from the pact.

“We believe that some progress was made,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Monday during a closing press conference. “We finally began to discuss some of the core issues, so this round was a step forward — but we are progressing very slowly. We owe it to our citizens, who are operating in a state of uncertainty, to move much faster.”

Lighthizer, however, publicly chastised Canada, America’s largest trading partner, over filing trade complaints against the U.S. in the international arena. He also called on Canada and Mexico to dig even deeper to produce “major breakthroughs” before negotiators reconvene in Mexico City in late February for the seventh round of talks on revamping the 24-year-old pact.

There is still a very real possibility that Trump could withdraw from the pact unless Canada and Mexico agree to changes to make it better for the United States, despite efforts by the farm and the business community and members of Congress to change his mind about that, he said. In several recent speeches, including last week at Davos, Switzerland, Trump said that he supported free trade but that it must be “fair.”

“I don’t think the president’s view has changed at all. His view is if we can get a good agreement, we should have one,” Lighthizer said, adding that the existing pact is “really not a good agreement for the United States.”

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