Mexico, the United States and Canada wrapped up the third round of talks to renegotiate NAFTA this Wednesday in Ottawa with some issues resolved concerning small and medium-size enterprises, but too much work remains to be done in order to get a preliminary deal by the end of the year, as planned.
The three countries expect to agree on the competition chapter prior to the next round of negotiations in about two weeks in Washington. Also, “meaningful advances" have been made in telecommunications, digital trade, good regulatory practices and customs and trade facilitation, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a joint press conference along with U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and Mexican Minister of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo.
Lighthizer told reporters a new proposal announced by the U.S. government last Tuesday to impose a 219% countervailing duty on jets manufactured by Montreal's Bombardier was mentioned during the talks, but the issue did not have an effect of the negotiation.
None of the three officials shared details of the most sensitive matters, but Guajardo said there would be “substantial challenges” in the next round.
One of the issues experts believe to be the thorniest is the rules of origin, which outlines how much of a product needs to originate in a NAFTA country. Lighthizer said the United States would “hopefully” present draft text on the matter during the next round scheduled to begin in Washington on October 11.
On Tuesday, the United States unveiled a draft text on labor standards as the three top officials joined talks in Ottawa.
U.S. officials said the labor proposal would ensure enforceable mechanisms to raise labor standards in the NAFTA but Canadian labor unions said it was inadequate because it lacked a mechanism to ensure wages increases.