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Mexico does not expect NAFTA deal by Thursday, minister says

China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-17 07:19

MEXICO CITY - Negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, are unlikely to reach an accord in principle by Thursday, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said.

The three NAFTA partners, Mexico, Canada and the United States, were still disagreeing on several issues, he said.

"The possibility that by Thursday we will have all of the negotiation (wrapped up) is not likely. We don't think it will happen by Thursday," Guajardo said.

May 17 loomed as a deadline for a preliminary agreement after Paul Ryan, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, last week said that for US Congress to approve a revamped NAFTA, an agreement in principle had to be submitted by then.

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

"The conditions are still not there at this time," affirmed Guajardo, who heads Mexico's negotiating team.

Among the issues the three sides have yet to agree on is a US proposal to include a so-called sunset clause that would allow the deal to automatically expire every five years, pending renewal. Neither Canada nor Mexico wants that.

However, hours later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the trio are "very close" to agreeing a deal to modernize the NAFTA trade pact.

Washington wants less foreign-made parts and more US-made components, while Canada and Mexico want to preserve the existing limits.

"We could see the elements to arrive at a balanced agreement. The problem is that you have a series of additional elements that are changing the nature of what a trade agreement is. That's where we are seeking solutions that will lend certainty to what we are negotiating," Guajardo said.

"You have to continue to negotiate and the moment you reach a good negotiation, close the deal," he added.

Guajardo proposed another possible end date, saying NAFTA talks could conclude by Mexico's presidential elections on July 1 or shortly after.

The negotiations began in August, after US President Donald Trump took office. Trump campaigned on a platform to strengthen US industry and employment, in part by renegotiating the 1994 trade agreement.

Xinhua - reuters

(China Daily 05/17/2018 page11)

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