Some NAFTA talks to get early Nov. 15 start in Mexico: sources

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - U.S., Mexican and Canadian officials will kick off some of the next round of talks to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement slightly ahead of schedule on Nov. 15, four officials familiar with the process said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: (L-R) Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal make statements to the media after a NAFTA trilateral ministerial press event in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The fifth round of NAFTA negotiations is due to be held between Nov. 17 -21 in Mexico City. However, some groups from the three nations will begin meeting from Nov. 15, the four officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Some topics that will likely be discussed during those days include textiles, services, labor, and intellectual property. It’s very possible other topics will be added,” one of the officials said.

Mexico’s Economy Ministry said in a statement the fifth round would begin on Nov. 17 as planned and that some groups could meet beforehand to review the agendas of the chief negotiators.

One of the officials said the chief negotiators would begin meetings as planned from Nov. 17 and that holding preparatory discussions beforehand was not unusual.

“This doesn’t have any substantial impact (on the talks),” another of the officials familiar with the matter said.

A U.S. lobbyist familiar with the process said: “I hear they wanted to move textiles earlier into the schedule.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if he cannot rework it in favor of the United States. His negotiating team set out proposals in the previous round that caused dismay among Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

Among the most divisive were proposals to establish rules of origin for NAFTA goods that would set minimum levels of U.S. content for autos, a sunset clause that would terminate the trade deal if it is not renegotiated every five years, and to end the so-called Chapter 19 dispute mechanism.

One of the officials said it was possible a counterproposal would be made in the next round on the sunset clause, but was skeptical about the prospect of exploring a compromise on the demand to enshrine U.S. national content in rules of origin.

Reporting by Adriana Barrera, David Ljunggren, Dave Graham and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Tom Brown