A fifth out of seven planned rounds of NAFTA talks opened in Mexico on Friday, but only a few hours into it, Canada complained of the United States’ unwillingness to compromise.
The talks aimed at addressing hard-line demands by the U.S., which were previously disregarded as “unworkable,” Reuters reports.
Canadian union leader Jerry Dias again expressed his strong belief that the talks would be unsuccessful, while Steve Verheul, Canada’s chief negotiator said they were “just getting started,” adding that there was a long way to go in the “challenging negotiation.”
A Mexican official said the U.S. has to say clearly what it intends to achieve with tougher rules of origin, pointing out that the five-year sunset clause and the 85 percent content of autos the U.S. is demanding were impossible.
“Once (the Americans) have explained all that, we can see about finding common ground,” the official said.
A Canadian government source said the goal in Mexico City was to show to the U.S. why their demands wouldn’t work.
Pro-trade Congressional Republicans are worried the president may attempt to quit NAFTA all together instead of negotiating a compromise to keep its core benefits.
“I think the administration is playing a pretty dangerous game with this sunset provision,” said Representative Charlie Dent, who believes the provision threatens NAFTA with extinction and makes it harder for companies to invest in supply chains.
Some Democrats, on the other hand, supported Trump’s harder stance.
“Some of those demands are in tune. We don’t want to blow it up, Republicans don’t want to blow it up. But we want substantial changes in the labor, the environmental, the currency, on how you come to an agreement when there’s a dispute, and on problems of origin,” said Representative Bill Pascrell, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee.
President Donald Trump has frequently characterized the agreement as disastrous and has threatened to leave it if major changes are not made.