The fifth round of negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico to update the North American Free Trade Agreement was held in Mexico City, Nov. 17-21. Agriculture-related issues in the negotiations include discussions of sanitary and phyto-sanitary rules and agricultural market access.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has released an updated set of NAFTA negotiation objectives. For agriculture, the objectives now include a specific reference to eliminating remaining Canadian tariffs on imports of U.S. dairy, poultry and egg products. There is also new language added to improve trade in biotechnology products.

All countries have submitted text on the SPS issues, outlining their ideas for changes to the existing rules. Since the U.S., Canada and Mexico agreed on SPS measures as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, modernizing this chapter of NAFTA to emphasize science-based food safety regulations is viewed as achievable. Discussions were held on the mutual recognition of biotech approvals within the NAFTA region. Rules on biotech approvals that are expected to go beyond what the countries agreed to as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The next negotiating session will begin Dec. 11 in Washington, D.C. The U.S., Canada and Mexico have announced that the negotiations will continue into the first quarter of 2018, with the sixth round of negotiations to be held Jan. 23-28 in Montreal, Canada.