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Mexico, Canada, US plan new round of NAFTA talks for April

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Mexico City, March 6: Mexico, Canada and the US will hold their eighth round of negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement in early April, and to accelerate the process they will conduct a series of working meetings – involving cabinet officers – before the talks, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Monday.

At a press conference after the end of the seventh round of talks to update NAFTA, Guajardo said that the new round will take place during the “first part of April,” meaning that authorities in the three-member nations have “five weeks” to consider their options and prepare, Efe reported.

“It’s not that there’s just going to be one meeting, but rather a working group” will hold assorted meetings in Washington, Mexico City, Ottawa and Toronto.

Moreover, negotiators will discuss working agendas regarding “associated issues that are very close to being resolved.”

He also said that during the coming five weeks the ministers tasked with recrafting and updating NAFTA, which went into effect in 1994 and the renegotiation of which US President Donald Trump had demanded, will be in contact with one another and meet to begin “getting an idea about comprehensive solutions” on issues of “great complexity.”

Guajardo said that the site for the eighth negotiation round has yet to be established, but it is expected that it will be in Washington since the sixth round was held in Montreal and the seventh – which lasted from Feb. 25 through March 5 – in the Mexican capital.

He said that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government is ready to negotiate up until the last day of his presidency, Nov. 30.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the new pact should be concluded “quickly” because of the nearness of the Mexican presidential election – scheduled for July 1 – and the US mid-term elections in November.

Lighthizer said Monday that it was regrettable that negotiators had only managed to conclude discussions on three of the issue areas during the seventh round, although Guajardo was more positive and said that now agreement had been reached on six of the 30 NAFTA issues areas.


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US, Russia diplomats discuss Helsinki meeting, ties



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Washington, July 23 (IANS) The US Department of State has said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss Helsinki meeting fruits and issues over bilateral and regional concerns.

According to a statement issued by State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Sunday, the phone conversation took place on Saturday when the two foreign ministers discussed a broad range of issues, “some of which were following up from the meeting between President Trump and President Putin” in Finland on July 16, Xinhua reported.

Among the topics discussed was the situation in Syria.

The two also discussed how to implement ideas on counterterrorism process coordination and the mutual goal of establishing business-to-business dialogue between private, non-governmentally controlled entities in the two countries, another deliverable of the Trump-Putin meeting.

Pompeo and Lavrov also discussed “the need for Russia to provide equal diplomatic access to the US, at a level that is fair and reciprocal”.

US White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said Thursday that Putin will be invited to Washington in the autumn, and “those discussions are already underway”.

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said on Friday in response that that his country is open to a new meeting between the two presidents.

Trump has been widely attacked after his meeting with Putin on July 16, due to his reconciliatory remarks that many saw as a sign to side with Moscow against US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 US elections.

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Philippines Rains: Over 700,000 affected, 5 dead



Manila, July 22 : At least five people have died and more than 700,000 have been affected due to days of torrential rains that have lashed the Philippines and have caused dams and waterways in Northern and Central Luzon, as well as Metro Manila to overflow.


The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said it had received reports that a resident of Luisa Pelew died in a landslide while a resident of Negros Oriental Angelito Jipulan drowned, reports Xinhua news agency.

Police have also reported at least three more deaths, including a Negros Occidental resident who reportedly drowned, and two children from Antique province whose house was buried by a landslide.

The NDRRMC said the affected population of 158,509 families or 728,003 persons were from 585 villages in the National Capital Region (NCR) and several provinces in the Philippine.

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Exempt S. Korean vehicles from new tariffs: Seoul to Washington



Seoul, July 22 :South Korea has asked the US to exempt its vehicles from the new 25 per cent tariffs Washington is planning to impose on imported vehicles and spare parts, officials said on Sunday.

South Korean Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon made the request to his US counterpart Steve Mnuchin in a meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Efe news agency reported.

According to an official statement by the finance ministry, Kim asked Mnuchin that South Korean vehicles be excluded from the new tariffs the White House is planning to impose on national security grounds.

The South Korean official reminded his US colleague of the positive impact the Asian country’s automobile industry has had on employment and investments in the US.

Currently, South Korean vehicles entering the US market are not subject to import tariffs under the free trade agreement signed by both countries in 2012.(IANS)

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