NAFTA ministers to hold special meeting on thorniest issues

2018-01-12 03:39:09 GMT2018-01-12 11:39:09(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

MEXICO CITY, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Ministers from Canada, Mexico and the United States will hold a special meeting to tackle some of the toughest issues in negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a top private-sector adviser to the Mexican government said Thursday.

"There will be a ministerial meeting to review the toughest matters, to which we hope to be able to find solutions," Juan Pablo Castanon, president of the Business Coordinating Council, told reporters.

The meeting will take place as part of the upcoming sixth round of negotiations, to be hosted by Montreal, Canada on Jan. 23-28, and could move up the round of talks to Jan. 21, said Castanon.

Mexico, Canada and the United States have been renegotiating NAFTA since August, at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has alleged that the 23-year-old agreement has harmed his country and has threatened to withdraw from it.

Among the issues the three NAFTA partners have been unable to agree on are proposed changes to the chapter on dispute settlement, the inclusion of a so-called "sunset clause" that would subject the deal to review every five years, and the automotive sector trade deficit.

"It's time to broach the toughest issues in Montreal," said Castanon.

"These issues must be tackled now, with solutions that compensate and take into account the interests of the three parties," he added.

The parties are hoping to wrap up the talks in the first quarter of 2018.

"Practically half of the topics are ready to be concluded politically, and the other half have made interesting, significant and sufficient progress," said Castanon.

Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who heads his country's negotiating team, told reporters earlier this week that 10 of the 30 chapters that required updating are ready to be closed at the Montreal gathering.

"In our opinion as business owners, if it's possible to conclude (the talks) in February or March, that would be very good news for Mexicans and for the markets," said Castanon.