NAFTA Talks Finally Progressing Slightly Better Than a Dumpster Fire
After what could be called some of the least productive negotiations in North American history, some progress is finally being made on the North American Free Trade Agreement. We know, with all of the negative rhetoric being slung from all sides, it sounds impossible. However, all three trading partners are beginning to bend on some of the issues that have proven the trickiest to navigate.
Among them is the faintest glimmer of hope that the automotive content requirements pushed by the United States might be adopted by the other nations, albeit in a modified form.
Still, progress is progress, and it only took about six months to get to a point where some meaningful headway could finally be made. Absolutely incredible. Let’s give these officials a huge round of applause for really getting in there, taking care of business, and not wasting a bunch of time.
Dave Reichert, the Republican chairman of the House Subcommittee on Trade, told Bloomberg that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recognizes there is plenty left to do, but seems hopeful. “There’s just an air of optimism. They’re already talking about additional rounds,” he said.
There will be additional rounds, too. When Donald Trump made his initial threats to abandon NAFTA, he gave North America until December to figure out how to save it. That deadline has since extended to March of 2018 and may now progress well past June.
“I’m more optimistic than I was six months ago,” said Bill Pascrell, a Democratic member of the House Ways and Means Committee and one of the lawmakers who flew into Montreal for meetings on the sidelines of primary negotiations. He claims the tone surrounding NAFTA has changed. Instead of a do-or-die scenario, he now claims it’s akin to, “Let’s make this marriage work.”
However, the marriage has been troubled and a major point of contention has been the adjusted regional content requirements for cars proposed by the United States. Both Mexico and Canada have described the U.S. content proposals as “unworkable” in the past. During the last round of talks, Canada suggested “rewriting” how the value of a car is calculated to demonstrate a higher share of local content. While not particularly promising, it’s the first time any country has approached the issue without a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.
“I think it would be premature to say anybody is buying into anything at this point,” said Perrin Beatty, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “[Lighthizer and the U.S.] really set the tone and they convey a sense as to whether or not the chemistry is good, and whether or not there are good prospects for reaching an agreement.”
Chief negotiators from the U.S. reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward in all areas of the NAFTA debate in order to conclude negotiations as soon as possible. But most of the headway made thus far has been on the issues that have proven mutually beneficial for all countries. Nobody seems to want to give up any ground, so this newfound optimism could evaporate quickly.
The next round of talks are scheduled for February in Mexico City.
[Image: NAFTA Secretariat]
Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.
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