NAFTA Talks Progress on Energy, Telecoms, Customs: Lobby Group

Castañon said talks on the automotive sector, labor and dispute resolution mechanisms were among the areas least advanced in the negotiations so far.

Those issues remain some of the toughest sticking points on which to broker consensus and all three countries have previously flagged they could walk away from the table without any resolution on such matters.

Free-trade negotiations often take years to conclude, but delegates in the new round of NAFTA dialogs are seeking to finish the current talks over a very tight timeframe.

Negotiators aim to end the talks before Mexico’s presidential election campaign begins in earnest next year and the U.S. mid-term elections later in 2018.

The next round of talks will start on Sept. 24 in Ottawa, said Castañon.

So far talks have largely focused on proposing preferred language for less controversial areas, such as digital and cross-border services trade, according to government officials and industry representatives briefed.

But negotiators have not started banging out the wording for more controversial subjects, including rules of origin and dispute resolution mechanisms.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo are scheduled to hold a joint news conference on Tuesday afternoon after talks conclude.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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