NAFTA partners vow to press accelerated timetable to reach deal

The United States, Canada and Mexico are determined to reach an agreement as soon as possible in talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, the three countries said in a joint statement as the first round of talks ended Sunday.

"While a great deal of effort and negotiation will be required in the coming months, Canada, Mexico and the United States are committed to an accelerated and comprehensive negotiation process that will upgrade our agreement and establish 21st century standards to the benefit of our citizens," the statement said.

"Negotiators from each country will continue domestic consultations and work to advance negotiating text through the end of August, and will reconvene in Mexico for a second round of talks from September 1-5," the statement continued.

"Negotiations will continue at this rapid pace, moving to Canada in late September and returning to the United States in October, with additional rounds being planned for the remainder of the year," the statement said.

The three countries decided against holding a press conference at the end of the round to answer questions on specific issues involved in the talks. They also stuck to generalities in the statement, saying more than two dozen different negotiation topics were covered over the five days of talks.

The U.S., Mexico and Canada made "detailed conceptual presentations" across the scope of the agreement, and negotiating groups began work to advance text. They also agreed to provide additional text, comments or alternate proposals during the next two weeks, the statement said.

The scope and volume of proposals reflect the three countries’ commitment to an ambitious outcome and also "reaffirms the importance of updating the rules governing the world’s largest free trade area," the statement said.

Source: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/20/nafta-trade-mexico-canada-trump-241848

Trump to address nation on Afghanistan policy Monday night

President Donald Trump will address the country Monday night when he will provide an update on his administration’s plans for Afghanistan and South Asia.

The details of what Trump will announce are not clear, but he is expected to approve sending more troops to Afghanistan.

According to a White House statement, the president will be speaking to America’s armed forces from Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, at 9 p.m.

The announcement comes as news reports Sunday morning indicated that Defense Secretary James Mattis had a new strategy for how to fight the war in Afghanistan, a conflict the nation has been engaged in since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

According to the Associated Press, Mattis, speaking aboard a military aircraft on an overnight flight from Washington to Amman, Jordan, said he was "very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous."

Mattis, the president, Vice President Mike Pence and a number of other top officials gathered at Camp David on Friday to discuss the policy.

Earlier in his administration, the president had given Mattis authority over troop levels in Afghanistan, but Mattis has yet to significantly augment American forces there.

The seemingly endless conflict in Afghanistan has been the subject of significant debate within the administration. The president has at times expressed skepticism about the possibility of winning a war there. “I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years," he told reporters at one point.

In June, Mattis told a Senate panel: "We are not winning in Afghanistan."

The panel’s chair, Arizona Republican John McCain, challenged Mattis on the subject, long a sore point among America’s hawks.

“We want a strategy, and I don’t think that’s a hell of a lot to ask,” McCain said. “We’re now six months into this administration. We still haven’t got a strategy for Afghanistan. It makes it hard for us to support you when we don’t have a strategy.”

Nahal Toosi contributed to this article.

Source: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/20/trump-afghanistan-asia-war-241845