He thanked Mexico for its leadership on climate change and for supporting the inclusion of a section in a new NAFTA deal that recognizes the specific importance of women in the labor market as well as their rights.
A round of talks in Washington that lasted seven days failed to find the most basic common ground between the three parties, and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland accused the United States of pursuing a "winner take all" approach.
"As hard as this has been, we have seen no indication that our partners are willing to make any changes that will result in a rebalancing and a reduction in these huge trade deficits", said Washington's negotiator, Robert Lighthizer. "We have seen a refusal to accept what is clearly the best text available". Negotiations are now expected to go into the first three months of 2018, according to Lighthizer.
Despite a two-day extension, talks this week ended without any progress on a few key issues.
Freeland said new USA content requirements would disrupt supply chains for the automobile industry, jeopardizing thousands of jobs. Freeland also made it clear that Canada opposed an American proposal to rewrite how companies resolve disputes.
He added that he believed there was a way of finding creative solutions that would allow North America to expand trade, benefiting all three countries.
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The Trump administration's proposals to reshape NAFTA to help shrink USA trade deficits have created stumbling blocks, leaving observers to wonder whether it intends to sink the agreement. Lighthizer insisted that 50 percent of all auto parts originate from the United States and 85 percent within North America.
This year's NAFTA re-negotiations stem from U.S. President Donald Trump's insistence that the agreement be remodeled lest the U.S. leave the deal entirely.
"We must move the needle forward on gender equality, this is an idea that all nations of the world should get behind", he said. USA auto executives, meanwhile, worry that such stringent rules of origin would be a bureaucratic nightmare to implement and wreck the sophisticated, integrated North American supply chain that has taken decades to develop.
Despite the pessimism, Lighthizer said he expects an eventual agreement to attract both business and labor as well as a healthy majority of congressional Republicans and Democrats, a tall order for any legislation at the moment, nevermind a trade agreement. "It doesn't exist", Guajardo said.
Despite the tension at the talks, Mexican and Canadian officials have stressed that their governments will not walk away from the table.