Canadian, Mexican, and American flags stand on display during the fifth round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations in Mexico City, Mexico, on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (Photographer: Alejandro Cegarra/Bloomberg)

Nafta Nations Said to Plan More Talks for Mexico in February

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S., Canada and Mexico plan a seventh round of negotiations for a new Nafta deal for February in Mexico City even as they focus on preparations for talks in Montreal in two weeks, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Negotiations to update the accord have been organized into rounds, or week-long sessions where groups meet to hammer out the details of about 30 chapters under discussion. The talks began in Washington in August and have rotated between the three nations every few weeks since. The Jan. 23-28 round taking place in Quebec will be the first held outside a capital city, and the talks will then return to Mexico the next month, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing plans that haven’t been announced publicly.

Canadian government officials on Wednesday said there’s an increasing likelihood U.S. President Donald Trump will give six-months’ notice to withdraw from Nafta. The officials, speaking on condition they not be identified, declined to say whether they think the likelihood of Trump following through on repeated threats to quit the pact now exceed 50 percent. The loonie fell along with Mexico’s peso and yields on Canada’s government bonds.

A White House official, speaking on background, said there hasn’t been any change in the president’s position on the two-decade-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mexico’s Economy Ministry declined to comment on Wednesday on speculation that Trump will begin the process to pull out of the deal. On Tuesday, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the talks in Montreal will be crucial for seeing the opportunities for possible compromise. He also signaled there is common ground over a key U.S. objective, saying that strengthening the regional content rules for cars would be a victory for all three member nations.

Nafta talks began at the initiative of the U.S. president, who has repeatedly said the Nafta accord led American companies to fire workers and move factories to Mexico. Trump promises to negotiate a better deal for the U.S. or withdraw.

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