North American Free Trade Agreement negotiators did not make the progress that “many had hoped” would be made in the seventh round of talks, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Monday, warning that the three countries were running out of time.
[ Dan Dupont | March 5, 2018 | Inside US Trade]
Crediting negotiators for solid work in closing a few new chapters and two sectoral annexes, while also getting closer in several other areas, Lighthizer lamented that after seventh months of talks only six of “roughly 30” chapters were agreed to. He acknowledged that in such negotiations most progress is made at the end, but said that end would very soon be complicated by political pressures in all three countries – putting in doubt whether the U.S. could put a deal before the “current Congress.”
“We are at the point where we have very important decisions to be made,” he said, insisting that while the U.S. “would prefer a three-way, tripartite agreement,” it stands ready to “move on a bilateral basis if agreement can be made.”
“Now our time is running very short,” he said at the closing press event, flanked by his Canadian and Mexican counterparts. The three met bilaterally and trilaterally at the close of the round on Monday.