Canada, Mexico to firmly reject US NAFTA proposals but will offer to keep negotiations going: Sources

Top trade negotiators from Canada and Mexico will meet Tuesday with the U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, and firmly reject the U.S. proposals floated in the current round of NAFTA negotiations, according to two people briefed on the countries’ positioning.

Canada and Mexico will not walk away from the negotiating table, despite an outright rejection of the U.S. protectionist demands, these people said.

The move leaves the ball in the U.S.’ court.

The Office of the USTR could not immediately be reached for comment.

Talks among staff negotiators from the three countries concluded Monday. A formal closing meeting among Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Lighthizer will take place Tuesday, followed by a joint statement at 3 p.m. ET.

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (C) speaks before the start of a trilateral meeting with Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo (L) and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during the third round of NAFTA talks involving the United States, Mexico and Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 27, 2017.

Chris Wattie | Reuters
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (C) speaks before the start of a trilateral meeting with Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo (L) and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer during the third round of NAFTA talks involving the United States, Mexico and Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, September 27, 2017.

U.S. lawmakers and business trade groups have aligned themselves with Canada and Mexico in wanting to preserve the deal.

It remains to be seen how President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly slammed the 23-year-old trade agreement, will react to the position. The president has threatened to scrap the free-trade agreement if the countries cannot strike a deal to rework it.

The fourth round of negotiations is concluding as the three nations push to meet a year-end deadline. Three additional rounds of talks are expected, for now. The final round had been slated for early December in Washington, D.C.

After the negotiations began this year, Trump derided NAFTA as the “worst trade deal ever made” and said the U.S. neighbors were “both being very difficult.”

Canada was the United States’ second-largest goods trading partner last year, while Mexico was the third, according to the office of the USTR. Mexico sent more goods to the U.S. in 2016 than every country but China.

Trump has focused his ire on trade deficits, which he says hurt the U.S. economy and American workers. The U.S. had goods trade deficits of about $63 billion and $12 billion last year with Mexico and Canada, respectively, according to the USTR.

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