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NAFTA talks extended as tensions rise

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NAFTA talks extended as tensions rise

The fourth round of talks surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement will be extended two extra days to allow for additional negotiations, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in an Oct. 11 news release.

The round of talks, which will run Oct. 11-17 in Arlington, Va., will cover more than two dozen negotiation topics but did not specify which areas would be discussed, according to the release.

The announcement comes during heightened tensions between the U.S. and its NAFTA trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

President Donald Trump told Forbes in an Oct. 10 interview that withdrawing from the deal may be the only way to secure a good deal for the U.S., which has made closing the trade deficit with Canada and Mexico and increasing U.S. materials in NAFTA products, priorities. Although Trump has previously threatened to scrap the 23-year-old trade deal, this appeared to be a direct threat and came on the eve of the latest round of negotiations.

"I happen to think that NAFTA will have to be terminated if we're going to make it good," Trump told Forbes. "Otherwise, I believe you can't negotiate a good deal."

Trump is scheduled to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Washington on Oct. 11, where Trudeau is expected to stress the sheer amount of goods Canada buys from the U.S. each year and urge the U.S. to focus on Mexico as a potential source of problems in the trade deal, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 10 warned against withdrawing from the trade pact, stressing that the U.S.-Mexican commercial relationship is too valuable for American businesses to disrupt.

Still, Lighthizer maintained an optimistic tone heading into the fourth round.

He said the three countries closed the chapter on competition during the third round of talks, which were held in Ottawa in late September."Thus far, we have made good progress, and I look forward to several days of hard work," Lighthizer said.

"Thus far, we have made good progress, and I look forward to several days of hard work," Lighthizer said.

The fourth of seven planned rounds of NAFTA talks were originally scheduled to run through Oct. 15. Negotiators were not available for comment at the start of talks.

The three trade ministers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are scheduled to hold a trilateral press event Oct. 17.