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American business leaders meet in Mexico as NAFTA talks resume

Trump has threatened to pull out of NAFTA.

by Eric Martin

As negotiators resume talks to overhaul NAFTA in Washington on Wednesday, American business leaders will be in Mexico City meeting with counterparts from the nation’s private sector and allies in government to discuss ways to defend the deal. 

The meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel includes a conversation between executives and Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who oversees Mexico’s negotiating team, according to an agenda obtained by Bloomberg News. Guajardo’s office confirmed his participation. Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade will also address the gathering, according to the schedule for the closed-door summit.

Led by executives from FedEx and Tenaris, more than 100 business and government officials attended the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue in December, shortly after Donald Trump’s election, the last time the event was held in Mexico. U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue told attendees at that session that the biggest American business lobbying organization aimed to keep Trump from tearing up NAFTA, according to three people with direct knowledge of the meeting. Donohue is set to speak at an American Chamber of Commerce event in Mexico City on Tuesday morning before a dinner kicking off the CEO event that night.

Trump has called NAFTA a “disaster” and threatened to pull out of the agreement if he can’t get more favorable terms. Round four of NAFTA negotiations, which began in August, will take place in the Washington area from Oct. 11-15.

On Friday, the Chamber said it opposes key proposals by the Trump administration, adding to growing tensions over the negotiations. Companies are unnerved by U.S. proposals to add a five-year termination clause, roll back the access of Canadian and Mexican firms to U.S. procurement contracts and raise so-called rules of origin thresholds to “extreme” levels, said John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy.

Mexico’s chamber of commerce, known as the CCE, declined to comment when asked about the event, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce press office didn’t immediately return an e-mail or answer an office phone after normal business hours Friday. The two groups are the organizers of the dialogue, which has held eight prior sessions since its creation in 2013.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Martin in Mexico City at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Vivianne Rodrigues at [email protected]

Robert Jameson

© 2017 Bloomberg L.P

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