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The fifth round of NAFTA talks ended last week in Mexico City, making limited headway on the renegotiations.

During the round, the parties made progress on certain technical issues of the trade agreement, including digital trade, telecommunications, anti-corruption, and customs procedures.

  • In digital trade, they established rules preventing all three governments from requiring the disclosure of a company’s proprietary algorithms as a prerequisite for trade opportunities and developed a standard for websites’ liability for third-party content.
  • In telecommunications, the countries are working to impose regulatory curbs in order to prevent companies from charging competitors for calls going through a competing telecommunications network.
  • Regarding anti-corruption, the negotiators are developing penalties and certain enforcement tools that will apply to persons suspected of engaging in corrupt activities.
  • The negotiators are also discussing streamlining customs procedures and ensuring full transparency for a number of related provisions.

However, the parties continue to argue on the mechanisms to resolve trade disputes, certain government procurement issues, and automotive rules of origin. Robert Lighthizer, the United States Trade Representative, said at the close of the round on Tuesday, November 21, “thus far, we have seen no evidence that Canada or Mexico are willing to seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement.”

The negotiators had previously extended the break between rounds to a month, rather than every two weeks, in order to allow for time to cool tensions and determine strategies for moving forward. The schedule for the finalizing of the agreement was moved from the end of 2017 to March 2018. The negotiators will be meeting in a so-called “intersessional” on December 11 in Washington without the top trade ministers, and Round 6 will begin in late January in Montreal.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also released its new negotiating objectives this month, which can be accessed here.

For more information on how the NAFTA renegotiations could affect your business, please contact Robert Stang.