Politics

NAFTA Renegotiations Continue Despite Government Shutdown

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The U.S. will continue meeting with Canadian and Mexican leaders in an attempt to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) even though much of the federal government is shutdown Monday.

Many agencies are facing furloughs Monday after the government ran out of appropriated funds early Saturday, but some jobs are exempted from furlough because of their importance.

That includes representatives from the office of the Trade Representative and the Department of Agriculture, who will meet with foreign counterparts in Montreal, Canada, for the sixth round of talks, but several issues have complicated the negotiations.

A tweet from President Donald Trump reiterated claims that Mexico would pay for the expansive border wall by closing the trade gap the president said has been exacerbated by NAFTA.

The trade agreement has been a boon to Mexico’s economy, and with a presidential election coming up in March, officials in America’s southern neighbor are reluctant to strike a firm deal until after it’s clear who wins.

“We’re reaching the danger zone right now,” Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Bloomberg. “This is a pretty important meeting, because if there’s still no progress, the White House could become very frustrated and just throw up their hands and say, ‘We’re pulling out.'”

American manufacturers shipped production plant plant jobs to Mexico to take advantage of the country’s cheaper labor under NAFTA, but the agreement has been a boon to U.S. agriculture. Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue has advocated for farmers’ interests to be central to negotiations.

“USDA is committed to safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement, and even in a shutdown “we will continue to do just that.”

The government shut down again early Saturday after the Senate failed to pass a temporary funding bill. Democrats voted against the measure and demanded a deal to address illegal immigrants who have protection under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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