Next Round of Nafta Talks Said to Move Up a Day to Start Feb. 25

(Bloomberg) -- The upcoming round of talks to renegotiate Nafta will start one day earlier than previously announced in order to accommodate ministers’ schedules, according to two people familiar with the plans.

The meetings will now begin Sunday, Feb. 25 rather than Feb. 26 as originally announced and will run through March 5, according to the people, who asked not to be named speaking before the public announcement. The talks will be held at the Camino Real hotel on the edge of Mexico City’s tony Polanco district, the people said, the same place where the fifth round was held in November.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canada Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo are expected to meet on the final day, the people said. The Trump administration on Tuesday signaled progress in the talks, particularly with Mexico, as Republican lawmakers voice support for a trade deal President Donald Trump has threatened repeatedly to abandon.

U.S. touts Nafta progress as Republicans urge trade caution

The U.S., Mexico and Canada began renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement in August at the initiative of Trump, who’s said it led U.S. companies to fire workers and move factories south of the border. Trump has promised to negotiate a better deal for America or withdraw. Talks, organized into rounds, have rotated between Washington, Mexico City, Ottawa and Montreal over the past six months.

An eighth round of talks is planned for Washington, although the dates have yet to be determined, according to one of the people. Given that the Easter holidays fall at the end of March and that the lead negotiators have given their teams a month or more to try to achieve progress between the latest rounds, that could mean the talks will take place in early April.

In October, the countries announced plans to extend the talks, originally planned to wrap up in 2017, into this year, with the goal of reaching a deal by the end of March.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office declined to comment on the schedule for upcoming negotiating rounds.

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