By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Representatives from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico agreed Monday that progress has been made as the sixth round of a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ended in Montreal.
In his closing remarks at a press conference, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he hoped the Montreal talks would lead to “major breakthroughs” when talks resume in Mexico City in February.
But Lighthizer also berated Canada for accusing the U.S. of misusing anti-dumping tariffs and subsequently filing about 200 trade complaints against the U.S. with the World Trade Organization.
He called the move an “unprecedented” and “massive attack” on U.S. trade laws.
Regarding NAFTA, some background was provided as the sixth round developed.
The Americans want it to be voluntary for countries to participate in Chapter 11, or the investor-state dispute settlement system as it is called, where companies can sue countries over their domestic laws for what they consider discriminatory measures. Canada and Mexico proposed that Chapter 11 would apply to them, but the Americans could opt out.
The Americans want a five-year automatic termination clause for NAFTA, at which time renegotiations would begin. Mexico and Canada said the uncertainty would chill investment. Canada offered some counterproposals, including a commission that would regularly check and update how the agreement is working.
Canada has not made any proposals in the area of dairy products, where the U.S. wants Canada’s limit on imports of milk, cheese and poultry ended within 10 years.
The Americans want a limit on the number of contracts Canadian and Mexican companies can bid on, a measure that would push U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Buy American” dictate.
The countries are also discussing the auto industry, but Lighthizer said two compromise proposals that would see a reduction in American-made parts in vehicles – the U.S. is calling for 85 percent – were unacceptable.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said at the news conference that despite some bellicose comments from those involved, she was more positive after the sixth round ended.
She said negotiations are characterized by “dramatic” statements.
“That’s how these things work,” Freeland said.