Negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement will begin with the tabling of texts that will form the backbone of a future agreement.
American officials have held a briefing, with talks set to begin Wednesday.
They say it’s the first time in U.S. history that the country has renegotiated an already completed comprehensive agreement, a development prompted by the election of Donald Trump.
A U.S. trade official speaking on background says the first step involves the countries tabling texts.
They will then work to consolidate those texts into one draft of an agreement, leave brackets around issues that have yet to be negotiated and then tackle the more contentious issues.
The first round gets underway in Washington, D.C.; round two is in Mexico; and the third round is in Canada. The U.S. official joked that he hopes to get there before winter hits.
The countries are hoping to achieve a quick deal and get it done before the Mexico election next summer. Trade veterans say such a schedule is unprecedented. However, the countries have experienced negotiators at the table.
“We’re well prepared. We’ve been doing a lot of back-and-forth,” said the U.S. official, speaking on background. “We are going to be fairly ambitious in this first round. … We expect to table quite a lot of text at this first round. … We have an ambitious schedule here.”
He said most of the negotiations will be trilateral, although some talks will break into one-on-one sessions. He also made clear that while civil servants will be negotiating, the key decisions on challenging issues will be made at the cabinet level.
The Trump administration’s team is led by trade czar Robert Lighthizer, the Canadian side by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, and Mexico’s by Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal.
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