NAFTA next round of negotiations to begin January 23 in Montreal

ILLUSTRATION

No major progress has been made on key issues through the first five rounds. Trump indicated this month that he could be flexible with talks ahead of the Mexican election - and then repeated his threat to withdraw if he can't reach an agreement that's "fair" for America.

Austen said they have all been "instrumental" in Canada's efforts.

On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US.

In 2016, the past year figures are available, US mold makers ran a $735 million deficit with Canada, according to the Plastics Industry Association in the United States.

New Brunswick and Ontario would also likely be hit hard if the deal were to crumble.

In a January 22 joint statement, 25 boards of trade and chambers of commerce in Canada, Mexico and the US urged their "respective governments to come to an agreement to an updated NAFTA, and to maintain it for the future economic success of all three nations".

Negotiators face a number of challenges this week.

Mexico has been pushing a vigorous Plan B agenda, to compensate for a possible USA withdrawal and is communicating that to the Trump administration, according to sources familiar with that country's negotiating position, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitivity of the talks.

President Enrique Peña Nieto can't run due to term limits, and his party's opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, is leading by a wide margin in the polls.

Rumours have swirled about the possibility the upcoming round of talks in Montreal (set to run from January 23 to 29) could signal the collapse of the free trade agreement. If elected, he would take office in December.

NAFTA re-negotiations are now taking place in Montreal.

"I think it's because they feel there's an increasing tide of protectionism in the United States and they'd rather not draw attention to themselves as a foreign owner or a foreign-controlled company".

Economists long warned that the Trump administration's timeline was unrealistic to get a new deal done. They include autos, where the USA wants to raise the amount of a vehicle that must be built in the three countries to be traded under the deal.

Jaime Zabludovsky, one of the Mexican negotiators of the original NAFTA accord and an adviser to the private sector on the current talks, said the negotiations in Montreal would be a decisive test of the countries' ability to make progress. But among the other two alternatives - striking a deal or killing it - there's no doubt what has better odds.

"He's extremely frustrated with China and Canada", added Goldfeder. And I think that it is only sensible and prudent for us to take the president at his word.

Under the current NAFTA, 62% of the parts in a vehicle sold in North America must come from the region.

With time running out to reach a deal, Canada and Mexico will do everything to prevent the United States from following through on its threat to withdraw from the continental deal that binds almost 500 million consumers unless it gets significant concessions. Canada and Mexico have been accused by the Americans of dragging their heels at the negotiating table.

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