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NAFTA Round Two Wraps With Seemingly Little Headway

The second round of the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations concluded Tuesday without indication of any major progress.

A trilateral statement issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Tuesday afternoon following the five days of talks, said little other than “important progress was achieved in many disciplines and the parties expect more in the coming weeks.”

Nothing, however, was said about terminating the agreement and President Trump has so far been mum on the Twitter front.

“The ministers from Mexico, the United States and Canada reaffirm their commitment to an accelerated and comprehensive negotiation, with the shared goal of concluding the process towards the end of this year,” the statement noted. “The successful conclusion of these negotiations will update NAFTA through new rules that will generate important economic opportunities for all three countries, fostering further growth in the region for the benefit of the three NAFTA partners.”

In closing statements at the end of the talks, U.S. Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer said the parties found mutual agreement on key issues and that he is “hopeful” that an agreement can be reached.

Trade experts at the negotiating table appear to have consolidated the various proposals for changes to NAFTA into a single text, which will be the focus in the coming rounds of talks.

“Our work continues at a record pace. By the end of this round, we will have tabled text for over two dozen chapters. These chapters represent a new modern agreement which, once concluded, will support robust economic growth in North America for decades to come.”

When asked how Trump’s NAFTA termination talk has affected things at the negotiation table, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Canada’s Global News, “We’re going to stay focused on what we’ve always known. We’ve always said that the North American Free Trade Agreement has resulted in millions of good jobs on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border and is of benefit to both Canadians and Americans.” He continued, “We’re going to stay focused on the hard work we have ahead of us at the negotiating table and that’s how we’ve approached this from the very beginning and I don’t see anything changing in that.”

[Read more about what Mexico has to say about the deal: Mexico and Canada Vow to Keep NAFTA Going With or Without the U.S]

The third of seven rounds will take place in Ottawa, Canada from Sept. 23-27 and is expected to set the tone for whether the U.S., Mexico and Canada can in fact reach a deal this year.

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As Ambassador Miriam Sapiro, a partner at global strategic communications firm, Finsbury, and former deputy U.S. Trade Representative, noted in an interview with Bloomberg TV, the rapid pace of negotiations—especially having completed this latest round over a holiday weekend in the U.S.—“shows real seriousness of purpose” with regard to getting a deal done.