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NAFTA talks resume amid fears of ‘zombie’ deal

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Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Canadian, US and Mexican officials trying to rescue slow-moving talks to update the Nafta trade pact met on Monday in a new bid to resolve key issues before regional elections complicate the process.

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With time fast running out to strike some kind of deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement, the three member nations are still far apart on major points.

Discussions in Washington will centre on one particularly contentious area – the US demand for tougher rules of origin governing what percentage of a car needs to be built in the Nafta region to avoid tariffs.

Other challenges include the future of the pact’s dispute-resolution mechanism and a US proposal for a sunset clause that could automatically kill the deal after five years.

“We will be working all week on this,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters after talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Asked how long he would be staying in Washington, he replied: “We will be here for as long as necessary”.

Sources close to the talks suggest there is a creeping feeling of pessimism going into the new round of negotiations because of gridlock on critical matters.

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