United States takes hard line in NAFTA talks

Effigy of Donald Trump

Effigy of Donald Trump

David MacLennan, Chief Executive of U.S. based Cargill, the world's largest agricultural commodities provider, says it would be a "mistake" for the American economy to exit the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) as the U.S. Government engages into talks to renegotiate the agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Lighthizer briefly reiterated the administration's trade objectives.

Instead, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer insisted that NAFTA must undergo wholesale revision.

"The opinion of the president about NAFTA, which I fully share, is well known". "I want to be clear that he is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and a couple of updated chapters". But while Canadian and Mexican representatives emphasized the benefits of the trade alliance in their opening statements, Lighthizer said that NAFTA had "fundamentally failed" many Americans.

Highlighting just how far apart the NAFTA nations are on trade, Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland fought back against the USA emphasis on trade deficits. Mexico imported a total of $18bn worth of agricultural products from the U.S. past year, making it the US' third largest agricultural export market.

Guajardo said "NAFTA has been a strong success for all parties" and can not be improved by "tearing apart what has worked".

"We are looking for a constructive process that will take NAFTA into the 21st century", he said.

Trump famously denounced NAFTA as "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere" and threatened to pull out of the agreement he said has destroyed United States jobs.

USA stocks tumble on North Korea worries
Ten-year USA yields dropped 4.3 basis points to 2.24 per cent and German equivalents fell 3 bps to 0.43 per cent, a six-week low. SIMMERING TENSIONS: North Korea revealed on Thursday a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S.

At the opening press conference, Freeland called the renegotiations a "historic project". "What we are not going to get a chance to hear is what is said around the table".

Lighthizer did not repeat the threats to pull out of NAFTA.

Lighthizer said while there has been some recent improvement, the trade deficit in goods with Canada has exceeded $365 billion in the last 10 years.

The renegotiations are aimed at reducing the United States trade deficit and creating an agreement that is "fair" for all Americans by improving market access in Canada and Mexico for U.S. manufacturing, agriculture and services.

Guajardo said the regional supply chains established under NAFTA helped all three countries better withstand growing competition from Asia.

"We have to take very great care in making changes", Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, told reporters after the first day of talks.

"My hope is that together we will produce a result which moves us to freer markets, fairer and more balanced trade and stronger ties between our three countries", he said.

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