MONTREAL, CANADA – Trade ministers from Canada, Mexico, and the United States today ended the 6th
round of negotiations to modernize the North American Free trade Agreement (NAFTA) without issuing a joint statement, and signaling various levels of progress.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said, "We believe that some progress was made. 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."
Negotiators reportedly “closed” or finished the anti-corruption chapter of what is being dubbed NAFTA 2.0. Negotiators will next reportedly meet in Mexico City in late February for the 7th
round of talks.
“It’s clear that the parties made progress on several discrete topics during last week’s talks,” said USA Rice COO Bob Cummings who was in Montreal. “But the big make or break issues like improved U.S. dairy access in Canada, U.S. proposals on auto rules of origin, a hard sunset for NAFTA, and investor-state dispute settlement still need to be addressed and resolved at the political level for the negotiations to close.”
Cummings continued, “Our main messages to the administration are the critical importance of NAFTA to the economic health of U.S. rice farmers and exporters and therefore the importance of concluding these negotiations with NAFTA intact and stronger. Last week offered the opportunity to keep delivering this message to U.S. negotiators, their Mexican and Canadian counterparts, and congressional staff as well as to participate in activities of pro-NAFTA groups like Farmers for Free Trade.”
As negotiators enter what is known as an “intersessional period,” follow-up discussions will take place among the negotiating groups to prepare for the next negotiating session.
Two upcoming elections are widely seen as constraining and shaping the negotiating calendar – Mexico’s presidential election in July and the U.S. midterm elections in November.
Cummings said USA Rice will continue to engage with U.S. negotiators and Members of Congress as an organization and within several pro-NAFTA coalitions to educate and advocate on behalf of this beneficial trade agreement.