Top Mexican official doesn't expect NAFTA talks to be done by deadline

Elias Hubbard
May 16, 2018

United States House Speaker Paul Ryan set the cut-off date last Wednesday amid some optimism that Mexico, the USA and Canada could soon reach an agreement in principle as a result of meetings attended last week by the chief trade representatives in Washington.

Otherwise, Congress would not have enough time to debate and approve a new deal before legislative elections in November.

Officials from Canada and Mexico were in D.C. last week working on the terms of a deal, but nothing was reached.

"It is not easy, we do not think we will have it by Thursday", Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told broadcaster Televisa.

"We will keep negotiating, and in the moment that we have a good negotiation, we can close the deal. independent of which Congress [the current or new one] that will vote on it", he said.

Guajardo proposed another possible end date, saying NAFTA talks could conclude by Mexico's presidential elections on July 1 or shortly after. "That's where we are seeking solutions that will lend certainty to what we are negotiating", he said. "So depending on where we are on NAFTA on June 1, the president will decide whether or not to extend their situation", Ross said.

The latest survey comes as U.S., Mexican and Canadian negotiators expressed increasing pessimism that they can come up with a re-write of the 1994 NAFTA accord demanded by President Trump in the coming days.

However, if that doesn't happen, Graciela Márquez said, it would be preferable to complete the negotiations after the new president is sworn in in December.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, Ross said he did not believe any of the "big hot topics" were resolved, including rules of origin for autos, labor issues, US demands for a five-year "sunset" provision and major changes to dispute settlement systems. "The problem is there needs to be flexibility from the parties", Guajardo said.

Guajardo said negotiators were getting close to reaching a deal on rules for the auto sector under NAFTA.

Neither Guajardo nor Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had plans to travel to Washington on Wednesday, their representatives said.

He also noted that negotiations may continue after the Mexican elections in July and a transition team would have to then be included in the talks.

"We could see the elements to arrive at a balanced agreement".

"There's no question the possibility exists, we're interested and I think the United States and Canada share this view", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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