Extensive discussions about supply chains within the textile industry are expected to be on the table during Round 5 of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations began Nov. 15 in Mexico City. That is two days ahead of the planned schedule and is designed to give negotiators more time to discuss the myriad of issues--particularly textiles--covered under the 23-year-old trade pact, according to four sources who spoke to Reuters.

The fifth round will run Nov. 15-21 rather than Nov. 17-21 as originally planned. The chief negotiators in the United States, Mexico and Canada will join talks on Nov. 17 as previously scheduled. Topics likely be discussed in the earlier session include textiles, services, labor and intellectual property, according to a trade official.

U.S. fashion, apparel and textile industries do not want increased tariffs on imports. Neither do Mexico and Canada. The priorities for fashion, apparel and retail brands in this renegotiation are more streamlined customs enforcement, facilitation of regional supply chains, protection of intellectual property and provisions for digital and ecommerce. U.S. fashion brands, importers and retailers have urged for a cautious approach to the renegotiation so that any new deal does not harm their existing supply chains.

Currently, a trade deficit exists in the U.S. for apparel, with imports exceeding exports. In general, reducing the trade deficit and bringing more manufacturing jobs back to the nation is the centerpiece of the current U.S. administration’s plans on trade policy regarding NAFTA renegotiation.

After the fourth round of talks concluded, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer noted that the U.S. is not taking active steps to withdraw from NAFTA despite the disagreements. Among the most divisive U.S. proposals are recommendations to establish rules of origin for NAFTA goods that would set minimum levels of U.S. content for automobiles, a sunset clause that would terminate the trade deal if it were not renegotiated every five years, and an end to the so-called Chapter 19 dispute mechanism.

Negotiations grew contentious during the fourth round when the U.S. made demands on dairy, rules of origin within automotive content, dispute panels, government procurement and the sunset clause.

In total, seven rounds of renegotiations were originally planned through December 2017. The three NAFTA countries have agreed to hold the sixth round of talks in Washington, DC, in December, led by chief negotiators, but not attended by Lighthizer or his counterparts. A new timeline shows that the seventh round of talks, to be held in Canada, will be pushed into 2018.

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