U.S. unveils proposal to boost autos content in NAFTA

A source with direct knowledge of the talks says the Americans unveiled Friday their protectionist requests that would boost the overall North American content requirements from 62.5 per cent to 85 per cent.

The administration reportedly proposed the clause in the fourth of seven scheduled rounds of discussions earlier this week. Mexican sources denounced it as "absurd" and unacceptable, underlining the gaps between NAFTA's three members as they try to wrap up a deal by a year-end deadline.

President Trump is a vocal critic of the trade agreement, and has threatened to withdraw from it unless changes are made.

Business and farm groups say abandoning the 23-year-old pact would wreak economic havoc, disrupting cross-border manufacturing supply chains and slapping high tariffs on agricultural products.

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One of the sources said the US wants to increase the North American content requirement for trucks, autos and large engines to 85 percent from 62.5 percent.

One industry representative called the demands so comically impractical and potentially damaging for producers across the content that he can't believe the U.S.is serious about it.

A Canadian official noted that senior government figures in Ottawa had already rejected both ideas as unworkable.

Putting the focus on making a new NAFTA "progressive" is in part a political strategy for the Liberals, who are looking to left-leaning Democrats in the U.S. Congress to help support the agreement in the face of a White House that seems bent on ripping it up.

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"Withdrawing from the TPP will cost the US billions of dollars, and that's money that's coming to Canada for fruits and vegetables, beef and timber exports", Dade told Xinhua in an interview.

Trump aides say current content rules are too lax and have allowed auto companies to bring in too many cheap parts from China and other low-wage Asian countries. Trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico has quadrupled under NAFTA, now topping $1.2 trillion a year.

Meade's comments drove the peso to a almost five-month low of 18.92 against the dollar, a fall of more than 1 percent in the session.

Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade, seeking to downplay any setbacks in the latest round of negotiations, said on Friday that tension in the talks was only natural.

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