WASHINGTON -- The fifth round of meetings to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement ended last week in Mexico City, and it didn't go any better than the ones before.
Technocrats made progress on many chapters, including digital trade and labor standards. But tensions are increasing over the core U.S. demands, including greater North American and U.S. content in automobiles, and an automatic five-year expiration unless all parties agree to renew.
Mexican and Canadian officials continue to bristle at the U.S. demands, while U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer blames his counterparts for being inflexible.
"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," he said in a statement following the Mexico City round. "Absent rebalancing, we will not reach a satisfactory result."
Negotiators have extended talks into the first quarter of 2018, but the hard-line U.S. positions -- primarily aimed at addressing the narrow issue of trade deficits with Mexico -- continue to feed fears that the 23-year-old trading bloc could be scuttled.