Mexico says NAFTA deal still possible in coming weeks

Friday, May 18, 2018

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MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AFP) — Mexico said yesterday there is no “do-or-die date” to conclude an updated trade deal with the United States and Canada, insisting a new agreement is possible from the end of May.

Thursday marked the informal deadline set by the US Congress to wrap up a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but there is still no immediate end to the talks in sight.

“I would not rule out the possibility of reaching [a deal]at any moment from the last week in May, or as long as it takes,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told journalists.

“I would hope it would happen as soon as possible,” he added. “We sat down for a month trying to achieve the necessary flexibility... We didn't get there last week, but we will keep trying to achieve it.”

The three countries are racing to overhaul what US President Donald Trump has called the worst trade deal ever signed.

The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, had said he needed negotiators to reach a deal by Thursday if Congress was to approve a new version of the 1994 trade agreement this year, while the Republicans have a majority.

But Mexico and Canada downplayed the deadline.

“Today is definitely not a do-or-die date. The process is continuing, the technical teams from all three countries are working,” said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.

The electoral calendar is pressuring negotiators to wrap up a deal as soon as possible in both the US and Mexico.

US Republicans could lose their majority in November mid-term elections, while Mexico is counting down to a presidential election on July 1 that could bring a leftist free trade sceptic, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to power.

Videgaray said there had been “important advances” in the negotiations and that the United States had ceded ground on some of its demands.

“We will reach a deal when the deal is a good one,” he told Mexican TV network Televisa.

Canada was also upbeat, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying “there is a deal on the table” and that he is “feeling positive”.

Launched in August at Trump's behest, the talks have hit several stumbling blocks, in particular over US demands to increase the amount of American content in cars.

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