US energy secretary Rick Perry is pushing for closer energy ties with Canada and Mexico
Perry told a US House of Representatives panel today that he will host Canadian natural resources minister Jim Carr and Mexico's energy secretary Pedro Joaquin Coldwell to discuss ways to build a more robust energy market within Nafta and develop a common energy strategy. The meeting will take place in Houston on 13-15 November.
"We think it is really important that the North American region is as attached at the hip as it can be," Perry said.
The US administration lists support for Mexico's energy liberalization and promoting energy security of its neighbors among its key negotiating objectives for Nafta. On the surface, energy is one of the few areas without major disagreements among the three countries.
But energy industry insiders still worry that a breakdown of talks would have collateral effects on the growing energy trade within Nafta. Energy accounts for just under 10pc of Nafta trade flows of more than $1.1 trillion annually.
Nafta negotiators remain publicly committed to finishing talks later this year. Only two out of roughly two dozen chapters in Nafta have been finalized as the fourth negotiating round continue in Washington until 17 October.
The timetable is aggressive considering that trade talks typically start to move slower at the end of negotiations, House Ways and Means committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said in a televised interview yesterday.
Brady spoke after members of his committee met with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau in Washington to discuss Nafta. Trudeau and government officials from Mexico have sought to engage senior members of Congress as a safeguard against President Donald Trump's threats to unilaterally withdraw from Nafta if his key objective of reducing US trade deficits is not achieved.
"Our committee, which you are visiting today, has constitutional responsibility for trade and is dedicated to ensuring that these negotiations are successful," Brady told Trudeau.
Trump, in turn, told Trudeau that "if we cannot make a deal, it will be terminated and that will be fine." Trump also suggested the US may end up striking a bilateral trade agreement with either Canada or Mexico if Nafta talks fail.