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This Week In Trade

Freeland, Guajardo in DC for NAFTA round wrap-up; Azevêdo meets with Lighthizer

Posted: October 16, 2017

The political leads for NAFTA will arrive in Washington, DC, this week for the close of the week-long fourth round of negotiations, while World Trade Organization Director General Roberto Azevêdo will also be in town for a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other public engagements.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Lighthizer will meet for dinner on Monday night before delivering closing remarks on Tuesday, the last scheduled day of the fourth round of negotiations in Arlington, VA. Sources have described the fourth round of talks to date as “difficult” because of many of the proposals tabled at the round by the U.S. For instance, the U.S. has advanced proposals that would increase the auto rule of origin, weaken NAFTA's dispute settlement systems and require that Canada overhaul its supply management system, sources said.

The fourth round marks the midway point of the negotiations -- assuming the talks do not run past the seven rounds agreed to on a time line designed to end late this year.

Azevêdo arrived in Washington, DC, on Saturday to participate in the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings. He was slated to meet with Lighthizer on Monday before giving a keynote address at the Council for Foreign Relations in the afternoon.

Lighthizer did not attend the WTO's mini-ministerial last week in Marrakesh, Morocco, which has further fueled questions about the U.S.' role in the WTO. USTR Chief of Staff Jamieson Greer led the U.S. delegation. At the Marrakesh meeting, the roughly 40 ministers in attendance identified fisheries subsidies, domestic support in agriculture and public stockholding for food security as areas in which negotiators should focus on ahead of the WTO's 11th ministerial in December.

In addition to possible ministerial outcomes, Azevêdo and Lighthizer could discuss U.S. complaints about the functioning of the WTO's Appellate Body. The U.S. has blocked the Appellate Body from filling two vacancies because it has linked filling those seats with progress on its concerns. EU Trade Commission Cecilia Malmström, in an interview this week with the Financial Times, said the U.S. stance runs the risk of “killing the WTO from inside.”

“If there are specific concerns that the Americans have, OK, let’s hear them,” she said, according to the paper. “But we haven’t heard if there is anything specific, they are just generally not happy with the system."

Azevêdo will also give a morning keynote address at the Coalition of Services Industries annual Global Services Summit on Tuesday. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will deliver a closing keynote address.

Hector Marcelo Cima, Argentina's ambassador to the WTO, and Costa Rican WTO Ambassador Alvaro Cedeño Molinari will discuss the future of multilateral cooperation in services after Azevêdo's remarks. The panel will be hosted by the WTO's former director of trade in services, Hamid Mamdouh.

The daylong services summit will include panels on NAFTA, Brexit, competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific region and Congress' role in trade policy. The NAFTA panel will include CSI President Christine Bliss, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President John Murphy, American Farm Bureau Congressional Relations Director David Salmonsen, Business Roundtable Vice President David Thomas and U.S. Council for International Business Senior Vice President Rob Mulligan.

Staffers from Congress' four trade committees will address the trade environment on Capitol Hill during an off-the-record panel discussion. House Ways & Means Republican Chief Trade Counsel Angela Ellard and her Democratic counterpart, Katherine Tai, will participate along with Senate Finance Committee Republican International Trade Counsel Douglas Petersen and Democratic Chief Adviser on International Competitiveness and Innovation Jayme White.

European Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Industry and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen is also visiting Washington, DC, this week for meetings with the U.S. administration and Congress. On Tuesday he will discuss why multilateral trade matters at the Atlantic Council.

American University's Washington College of Law will host its annual trade symposium on Tuesday, which will include panels on the state of global trade policy, the WTO and trade defense measures, digital trade and the U.S. bilateral approach to trade negotiations. Brazilian Ambassador to the U.S. Sérgio Amaral; Sergio O. Pérez Gunella, the Chargé d’Affaires at the Argentine embassy; and Chilean Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdés will discuss developments in global trade policy. Matthew Nicely of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, the CATO Institute's Dan Ikenson, the Peterson Institute of International Economics' Gary Hufbauer and Tradewins President John Magnus will discuss the relevancy of the WTO in relation to trade remedies.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will speak at the North American Forum at the Mayflower Hotel on Tuesday. The forum is a group of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican “thought leaders” whose “purpose is to advance a shared vision of North America, and to contribute to improved relations among the three neighbors,” according to its website.

The day after NAFTA's round four is set to close, U.S. state agriculture officials will meet with Mexican and Canadian counterparts for the annual meeting of the Tri-National Agricultural Accord in Denver, CO. The accord represents a commitment by the three countries to “work together collaboratively on agricultural trade and development issues.”

In Geneva, the WTO's agriculture will hold negotiating sessions over the course of four days, beginning on Tuesday. The meetings come after ministers identified domestic support and public stockholding as areas where outcomes could be reached by the WTO's December ministerial. The heads of WTO delegations will meet on Thursday to discuss the ongoing preparations for the ministerial, to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. -- Brett Fortnam (bfortnam@iwpnews.com)