Vice President Mike Pence meets with U.S. automakers on NAFTA

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks as he meets with members of the Venezuelan exile community, recent Venezuelan migrants, other local leaders and officials about the continuing devastation and unrest in Venezuela at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Doral, Florida, August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and the administration's top trade official met with the chief executives of General Motors GM.N and Fiat Chrysler FCHA.MI, and a senior manager from Ford F.N, on Monday to discuss trade and the renegotiation of NAFTA.

The meeting was held to cover “trade, commerce and manufacturing policy and how it impacts their business” and was scheduled to include National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Pence’s office said.

Automakers have found themselves at the center of disputes over renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada and Mexico as the administration of President Donald Trump pushes for more rules on auto imports that the American manufacturers have opposed.

Automakers have been lobbying the administration to abandon proposals that would require more parts for automobiles be made in one of the three countries so as to avoid hefty tariffs.

“We view the modernization of NAFTA as an important opportunity to update the 23-year-old agreement and set the stage for an expansion of U.S. auto exports,” Matt Blunt, the president of the American Automotive Policy Council, said after the meeting.

Blunt said that the automakers appreciated “the opportunity to directly address the industry’s concerns with the administration’s rule of origin proposal.”

General Motors chief executive Mary Barra and Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne were expected to attend the meeting, while Ford’s Americas President Joe Hinrichs was set to attend.

Lighthizer is overseeing the renegotiation of NAFTA on behalf of the Trump administration. The latest round of negotiations ended last week with little progress.

Mexico and Canada rejected the U.S. proposal to raise the minimum threshold for autos to 85 percent North American content from 62.5 percent as well as to require half of vehicle content to be from the United States.

Reporting by David Shepardson, Susan Heavey and Ginger Gibson; Writing by Chris Sanders; editing by Andrew Hay and Grant McCool