No downside to Ottawa openly discussing its NAFTA objectives: Joe Oliver
The first round of talks between the United State, Mexico and Canada on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement will take place in Washington from Aug. 16-20, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday.
Lighthizer also said John Melle, a veteran of North American trade policy and assistant U.S. trade representative for the Western Hemisphere, would lead the day to day negotiations of NAFTA for the United States.
If successful, such a tight schedule could allow talks to finish by early next year, lowering the risk that the process could be politicized by Mexico's July 2018 presidential election.
Two Mexican officials, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the three nations had agreed on the seven round time timetable with three-week intervals.
One of the Mexican officials said the aim was to conclude the NAFTA talks before the election campaign was in full swing.
Negotiations to upgrade the accord that underpins over a trillion dollars of trilateral trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada are due to begin from Aug. 16 at a pace that was described as "very aggressive" by one of the Mexican officials.
A well-placed Canadian source familiar with discussions said the United States had proposed the schedule, but could not confirm whether an agreement had been reached on the timetable.
U.S. administration officials said Mexico had asked for the negotiations to be completed by the end of the year before the Mexican presidential election heats up.
Lighthizer, has said he hopes the negotiations could be wrapped up by the end of the year, while noting, however, that he was not prepared to set a deadline for the talks. He said in June that completing the negotiations by the year end was a "very, very quick time frame and we're not going to have a bad agreement to save time."
Trump has pushed for a renegotiation of NAFTA, threatening to dump it if he cannot rework the accord to the benefit of the United States. He argues it has fueled a trade deficit with Mexico and cost thousands of U.S. jobs.