MEXICO CITY – Mexico, Canada and the United States will hold their eighth round of negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement in early April, and to accelerate the process they will conduct a series of working meetings – involving cabinet officers – before the talks, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Monday.
At a press conference after the end of the seventh round of talks to update NAFTA, Guajardo said that the new round will take place during the “first part of April,” meaning that authorities in the three member nations have “five weeks” to consider their options and prepare.
“It’s not that there’s just going to be one meeting, but rather a working group” will hold assorted meetings in Washington, Mexico City, Ottawa and Toronto.
Moreover, negotiators will discuss working agendas regarding “associated issues that are very close to being resolved.”
He also said that during the coming five weeks the ministers tasked with recrafting and updating NAFTA, which went into effect in 1994 and the renegotiation of which US President Donald Trump had demanded, will be in contact with one another and meet to begin “getting an idea about comprehensive solutions” on issues of “great complexity.”
Guajardo said that the site for the eighth negotiation round has yet to be established, but it is expected that it will be in Washington since the sixth round was held in Montreal and the seventh – which lasted from Feb. 25 through March 5 – in the Mexican capital.
He said that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government is ready to negotiate up until the last day of his presidency, Nov. 30.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the new pact should be concluded “quickly” because of the nearness of the Mexican presidential election – scheduled for July 1 – and the US mid-term elections in November.
Lighthizer said Monday that it was regrettable that negotiators had only managed to conclude discussions on three of the issue areas during the seventh round, although Guajardo was more positive and said that now agreement had been reached on six of the 30 NAFTA issues areas.