Round 6 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks are about to begin in Montreal, and interested parties will be gauging the mood of the discussions closely. Over the weekend, there were several articles on the grumpiness of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on the topic of the Canadian negotiation strategy at the first five rounds of the NAFTA talks.
I asked Jim Wiesmeyer, Farm Journal‘s Washington Policy Analyst, if this reported unhappiness is a negotiation tactic or is Lighthizer legitimately upset.
“Bob is just a grumpy person, he is a bulldog. He wants to sign a bottom line but will walk away if he doesn’t get what he wants,” says Wiesmeyer.
What is interesting is that early in the talks Canada was propping up its confidence to renegotiate a deal by continually saying, “the focus is on Mexico and not Canada.” Over time, the focus of much of the U.S. criticism of the talks has fell on Canada, likely much to our government’s dismay.
Wiesmeyer agrees with my sentiment, “Canada has not been as open, but I know Canada will come to the table with some innovative options on the auto content rules which will help temper some of the sentiment.” Wiesmeyer continues, “Mexico has already given some to show flexibility on the auto sector. When the ministers have the concluding press conferences, I am sure we will hear that progress has been made.”
Hear Shaun Haney and Jim Wiesmeyer, Farm Journal‘s Washington Policy Analyst discuss the NAFTA round 6 talks:
Many Canadians are wondering if the U.S. will be willing to be flexible in some of their positions. To that Wiesmeyer says, “All three parties have to give a little, this is not a one-way street.”
So what will it take for Robert Lighthizer, USTR, to feel like the negotiations can be described as assisting in the “America first” agenda? Is there a win for the U.S. president in these NAFTA talks?
Wiesmeyer believes that this may be easier than you first think, “with the president, his bark is much bigger than the bite; you do not have to give President Trump much for him to claim victory. Even in agriculture some access to the Canadian dairy market will be enough.”
There has been much public discussion on the Canadian non-partisan NAFTA lobbying strategy that has been in steady motion since the talks began. But has it actually been effective on influencing law makers in the depths of Washington, D.C.? Wiesmeyer says, “it has been good, I think there is far more on the plus, all of your officials have shown the interconnectivity between the two countries, this educational effort has been good in Canada and the U.S.”
It does feel fro many people that round 6 could be pivotal in terms of whether the U.S. feels like they are getting anywhere with these talks and that is important to consider as the cloud of President Trump withdrawing still looms over this whole process.