The latest round of NAFTA talks concluded on Tuesday Sept. 5 without any major breakthroughs or agreements, fuelling doubts among observers that a deal will be reached this year.
While negotiators have now initially addressed all major topics, they have yet to agree on any major contentious issue and the three countries are a long way from striking a deal on any individual NAFTA chapter. On some topics, discussion has been only verbal with no specific text proposals submitted, officials said.
Mexico’s low wages have become an increasingly hot topic of debate . The Associated Press reported the United States has said it wants to tighten labour standards in the 23-year-old trade pact. But Mexico has drawn plants and investments by capitalizing on low wages and weak union rules, and Mexican business and labour leaders appear to be resistant to any attempt to tighten labour standards or ensure that Mexican wages rise.
Canadian auto workers leader Jerry Dias said over the weekend that wages in the three nations under NAFTA should be equalized. But a top Mexican union leader, Carlos Aceves del Olmo, has said equalizing wages is “a pipe dream,” claiming wages in Mexico can’t be compared to U.S. and Canadian salaries.
All three nations have been seeking an unusually quick timeline for NAFTA, and two government officials expressed doubt that a deal could be reached by the countries’ target date of December, based on the current pace of progress.
Peter Clark, a trade strategist and former Canadian official said, “They can’t possibly finish. The Americans haven’t started negotiating yet,” Jerry Dias, a Canadian labour leader, said he’d “be shocked if it gets done before Christmas.”