Sensitive North American Talks on Free Trade under Way in Dallas

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HIGHLY sensitive talks begun yesterday in Dallas could determine the fate of a proposed North American free-trade zone, several delegation sources said.

Sources close to the negotiations said the progress made in talks among representatives of Canada, Mexico, and the United States will determine whether the plan to remove trade barriers among the three countries will be sent to Congress in the spring or stalled until next year.

"It is a question of momentum," said one source in the Mexican delegation. "If all parties perceive that we are moving forward, then we will move rapidly ahead.

"But if things appear to slow, then everyone will start making political statements, and the whole thing will end up in a quagmire," the source said.

The talks are so sensitive that the public will be barred from all negotiating sessions and delegates speaking to reporters are asking that their names not be published.

The talks, begun Monday and continuing through Friday, bring together for the first time the chief negotiators from each country as well as 18 working groups. …