Top trade officials skipping NAFTA talks after meeting in Asia

Top trade officials skipping NAFTA talks after meeting in Asia
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Top trade officials from Canada, Mexico and the United States aren't attending the fifth round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks in Mexico City after meeting in Asia.

The three NAFTA ministers — Canada’s Chrystia Freeland, Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE of the United States and Mexico’s Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal — met during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meetings in Danang, Vietnam, and decided to let their chief negotiators handle this round. 

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“Given the substantive discussions held between ministers at APEC, ministers agreed not to attend the fifth round so negotiators can continue to make important progress on key chapters advanced in round four," the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement from the three countries on Wednesday.

Trade negotiators kicked off meetings on Wednesday, a couple of days ahead of the scheduled Friday start.

This round of talks will conclude on Nov. 21.

After the end of the last round, top trade officials decided to put more space between the talks on the 23-year-old pact in the hopes of giving each country a chance to more fully analyze proposals already on the table. 

In a poll released on Monday by Pew Research Center, 56 percent of Americans say NAFTA is good for the United States, while 33 percent say it is bad.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the three-nation agreement, creating anxiety among advocates for more global trade, especially among the closely linked neighbors.