Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Trump meets with auto executives

REWRITING NAFTA:The Canadian and Mexican trade ministers said they would not settle on an agreement that they are not satisfied with despite time pressures


US President Donald Trump on Friday convened the world’s most important auto executives at the White House to press for increased domestic production, while again heaping criticism on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Negotiators are working to rewrite the 24-year-old trade pact in which the auto industry features prominently, but the US, Canada and Mexico have not yet bridged their differences on criteria for duty-free car imports.

“NAFTA has been a horrible, horrible disaster for this country and we’ll see if we can make it reasonable,” Trump said at the start of the meeting.

He gave no hints on whether a deal could be struck by a key deadline next week, but the Canadian and Mexican trade ministers signaled that they are focused on the content, not the time pressures.

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, who has been in Washington all week for meetings with Mexican Minister of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said: “The negotiations will take as long as it takes to get a good deal.”

The talks are hung up on Washington’s demands to increase the US-made components in vehicles that receive duty-free status in NAFTA, and time is running out.

US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said he would need a written agreement by Thursday next week in order for Congress to approve a revamped trade pact this year, while Republicans still control the legislature — something that could change in the November midterm elections.

Guajardo said trade officials would continue the discussions and the ministers would be on call to continue talks next week, but cautioned that “we’re not going to sacrifice the quality for the pressure of time.”

One purpose of the meeting with auto industry officials was to focus on “how to build more cars in the United States,” Trump said. “We have a great capacity for building. We’re importing a lot of cars and we want a lot of those cars to be made in the United States.”

The leaders of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA), Ford Motor Corp and General Motors Co, as well as top executives from BMW AG, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen AG, attended the meeting.

The president singled out FCA chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne for praise due to the company’s plans to move production of its popular Dodge Ram truck back to the US from Mexico.

“Right now, he’s my favorite man in the room,” Trump said. “It’s a big deal. Leaving Mexico; going to Michigan. That was very well received. I appreciate it. Thank you.”

FCA in January announced its plan to invest US$1 billion in a Michigan assembly plant and create 2,500 jobs.

Trump also wanted to discuss plans to roll back fuel economy standards imposed at the end of former US president Barack Obama’s term in January last year.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards would require carmakers to reach an average of 23km per liter across all models they produce by 2025.

Automakers have said they support changes to the rules and prefer a single national standard.

California has a stricter standard than other states.

Trump has instructed his administration to explore negotiations with California on achieving a single fuel economy standard.

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