U.S. Trade Rep. Lighthizer 'Concerned' About State of Nafta Talks

By Jacob M. Schlesinger Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump's chief trade negotiator issued a downbeat assessment of ongoing talks to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying he was "concerned about the lack of headway" from the latest round of negotiations ended here Tuesday.

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"Thus far, we have seen no evidence that Canada or Mexico are willing to seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement released at the end of the fifth round of talks. U.S. officials use the term "rebalanced" to refer to their proposals aimed at overhauling Nafta in a way that would steer more production back to the U.S. from Mexico, and curb the U.S. trade deficit with the other countries.

"Absent rebalancing, we will not reach a satisfactory result,' Mr. Lighthizer said.

Mr. Lighthizer did not elaborate on what an unsatisfactory result would mean, but Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the 23-year-old pact if he is unhappy with the efforts to rewrite it.

While the three countries have agreed to keep negotiating at least until the end of March, Mr. Lighthizer also suggested that the Trump administration wants to see significant compromise from Mexico and Canada much sooner.

"I hope our partners will come to the table in a serious way so we can see meaningful progress before the end of the year," he said.

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In a separate trilateral statement, the three governments said that "progress was made in a number of chapters," during the five days of talks.

They also announced that they had set the next found of talks for Jan. 23-28 in Montreal, but that mid-levels would have an informal set of meetings in Washington in mid-December.

Write to Jacob Schlesinger at jacob.schlesinger@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 21, 2017 18:53 ET (23:53 GMT)