North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation talks will bleed into the new year due to challenges with the trade representatives trying to reform the agreement. The fifth round of renegotiation talks recently closed in Mexico City.
The New York Times reported that in a trilateral statement released by the three countries, they said progress was made in the fifth round, but no specifics were released. U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer did not attend the fifth round in Mexico City, but he said in a statement that he believes Mexico and Canada are not willing to accept the changes proposed by the Unites States, which is causing renegotiations to go into 2018.
NAFTA impacts several industries in the United States, one of those being agriculture. NAFTA has been a complicated issue in the United States because the agreement affects each agriculture sector differently. Some commodities benefit highly from NAFTA, while others are suffering because of it. For example, South Florida tomato growers are finding it nearly impossible to compete with the abundance of Mexican imports due to NAFTA. Because of the low price of Mexican produce, U.S. specialty crop growers are being forced out of business.
Now, U.S. trade representatives and Lighthizer are working to reform the agreement to make it more beneficial for all U.S. industries, including specialty crops, while still cooperating with Canada and Mexico. However, unforeseen complications in renegotiation talks have sparked talk about the United States backing out of NAFTA altogether.
President Donald Trump has not supported NAFTA since the start of his campaign. Since being elected, he has gone back and forth on his support for renegotiation. He has threatened to scrap the deal on several occasions if the three countries cannot strike a deal, despite strong urges to renegotiate from representatives in different industries.
Although renegotiation talks will continue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he is thinking ahead on a contingency plan if the United States drops NAFTA. Still, Perdue said he has clearly communicated with the administration that pulling out of NAFTA could be detrimental to many agricultural industries.
Representatives from the three countries aimed to finish renegotiation talks by the end of 2017. However, Lighthizer said that was not a firm deadline by any means. Now, the officials would like to conclude renegotiations before Mexico’s presidential election in July 2018.
The sixth round of renegotiation talks is set to take place January 23–28 in Montreal, Canada.
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