Trade reps from Canada and Mexico rejected outright a number of hard-line protectionist policies proposed by US negotiators, proposals which Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland described diplomatically today as "unconventional". "We must ensure that decisions we make today do not come back to haunt us tomorrow", said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.
"It is not clear how the (US) administration would expect to reduce the trade deficit through the renegotiation".
The fifth round, to be held in Mexico City, has been postponed until November 17-21.
The Oct. 17 joint appearance capped talks punctuated by controversial USA demands on dairy, automotive content, dispute panels, government procurement and a sunset clause, which Canada and Mexico have rejected.
For his part, Lighthizer identified both Canada and Mexico's "resistance to change" that manifested itself in a desire for "one-sided benefits". "Countries are reluctant to give up unfair advantage".
"We have seen no indications that our partners are willing to make any changes that will result in a rebalancing and a reduction in these huge trade deficits", he said.
"In order for the efforts of Mexico, the United States and Canada to be fruitful, we must understand that we all have limits", Villarreal said.
But many USA manufacturers moved production south of the border to take advantage of Mexico's low labor costs, then shipped goods back to the United States. It points out that in recent decades, a North American market for the automobile industry has emerged, with supply chains that crisscross national border many times.
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Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland countered that America's "unconventional" proposals would "turn back the clock" and warned against a "winner-take-all mindset".
The US reportedly presented a number of tough proposals, including raising the auto rules of origin to 85%, up from the current 62.5%, and adding a sunset clause, which would lead to NAFTA expiring every five years unless all three countries agree to extended the deal.
Lighthizer told reporters he's not focused on the possibility of the US exiting the deal.
There's little telling what the next round of negotiations will bring, but Jeff Rubin, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) said Lighthizer's comments might be a nod to a brewing new USA strategy.
If all parties become entrenched in their positions, Trump has vowed to withdraw from the 23-year-old agreement altogether.
When prompted by the press during a meeting with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office last week, Trump said he would consider a bilateral trade deal with Canada if things didn't work out with Mexico for NAFTA.
"The tradeoff is: either we improve NAFTA or we trade with new rules, those of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but trade with the United States will continue (either way)", Peña Nieto said.
Noting that she was at a bipartisan dinner Tuesday evening at the home of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Heitkamp said she emphasized to Trump administration officials that Mexico and Canada are two of the biggest markets for US food products.