NAFTA talks hit "tough" stretch: Mexican official

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-14 06:47:01|Editor: Zhou Xin
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MEXICO CITY, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Three-way negotiations between Mexico, the United States and Canada to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have hit their first major hurdle, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Friday.

Still, Guajardo dismissed the idea that the current impasse between the negotiating teams represented a crisis.

"It is never easy to renegotiate an agreement. We have had major crises in our history, that's unavoidable, but is this one of them? I don't think so," said Guajardo, appearing on a Mexican TV news program alongside Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

However, he admitted "it is a tough time" for Mexico, which wants to preserve the trade deal.

"I said this was going to be like a roller coaster, with ups and downs," said Guajardo.

In effect since 1994, NAFTA was opened to renegotiation on the insistence of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has in the past said his country might withdraw from the deal if certain U.S. demands are not met.

Trump believes the trade deal has unfairly benefited Mexico by luring U.S. industry and jobs there, where operating costs and wages are much lower.

The fourth of seven negotiating rounds began on Wednesday, with a U.S. proposal to include a so-called "sunset clause" that would require the deal to be renegotiated every five years.

"I don't think it should have this clause," said Guajardo, adding "we need certainty and stability in the supply chains."

Champagne, in Mexico accompanying visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, agreed.

But like the United States, Canada wants to see labor reforms in Mexico to bring wages and working conditions closer to North American standards.

In an address to Mexico's Senate on Friday, Trudeau said the region's challenge was to ensure economic growth benefits everyone, and a new NAFTA could serve that purpose.

"Progressive labor regulations are the way we can ensure NAFTA is modernized," said Trudeau.

"To have a win-win-win situation, we need to help achieve better norms, better wages and better work conditions," he added.

Canadian unions have weighed in on the issue as well, saying manufacturing plants have closed in Canada to move operations to Mexico, where wages are low even by Latin American standards.

"We have to make sure that workers are protected by progressive labor rules. They have to know that the governments and employers are taking care of them," said Trudeau.