Trade Ministers from Canada, Mexico and the United States say they've made progress in talks to update the NAFTA trade pact, a relief after a barrage of threats by U.S. President Donald Trump. But as David Pollard reports, the officials did not tackle the hardest issues.
It got media billing as a possible prize fight. Three NAFTA heavyweights battling for their economic interests. But as these talks ended, there appeared to be only winners. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CANADIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, CHRYSTIA FREELAND, SAYING: "I really feel that the tone of these negotiations is very constructive from all three parties." Appearances can be deceptive. Progress reported on small businesses, digital trade, energy and the environment .... But other big issues still to be resolved. Like US demands to rebalance manufacturing rules in the auto trade. An industry that accounts for the bulk of a 64 billion dollar US trade deficit with Mexico. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE, ROBERT LIGHTHIZER, SAYING: "We also must address the needs of those harmed by current NAFTA, especially our manufacturing workers" And for NAFTA workers themselves, there was also tension. Over employment rights. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENT OF CANADIAN UNION, UNIFOR, JERRY DIAS, SAYING: "If labor standards aren't a part of a trade deal, then there shouldn't be a trade deal." (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) PRESIDENT OF THE MEXICAN NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL COUNCIL, BOSCO DE LA VEGA, SAYING: "Mexico can't get involved in the labor issues of the United States or Canada, we ask that others don't get involved in our issues." The goal is to reach a new NAFTA deal by end of the year. Doing so would avoid a conflict with 2018 election cycles in Mexico and the US. Analysts hopeful sense will prevail despite Donald Trump's threats to abandon the pact. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GLOBAL FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK, PETER DIXON, SAYING: "Large chunks of U.S. industry relies on supply chains which operate out of Mexico. That keeps costs down. It allows U.S. businesses to continue generating reasonable profits. And I don't think that a so called business-friendly administration wants to upset too much." Round two of the talks over - round three begins in Ottawa later in September. When the fight may truly begin.