Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

NAFTA Deal Won't Be Reached By Informal Deadline, According to Mexico

NAFTA Deal Won't Be Reached By Informal Deadline, According to Mexico

Negotiations to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are unlikely to reach an accord in principle by May 17, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Tuesday.

That deadline was put in place by House Speaker Paul Ryan in hopes the GOP-led Congress will vote on a renegotiated deal before the midterms.

Mexico's presidential election is also now less than seven weeks away, further complicating talks.

However, ultimately no new deal was forthcoming and talks this week also look set to fall short of reaching a definitive outcome, which would allow the U.S. Congress a chance to approve it before the end of the year.

Guajardo said the talks could be concluded before or just after the July 1 vote.

A USTR spokeswoman, asked if the three ministers would meet again this week, said: "We have no announcements at this time".

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

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is leading polls to win the Mexican presidential race.

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He met with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and discussed the possibility of bringing NAFTA talks to a "prompt conclusion".

A report in Canadian media said Trudeau make a direct appeal to Trump to keep momentum alive at the negotiating table.

If that is not possible, she said it would be better to complete the negotiation after the next government takes office at the start of December. "The problem is there needs to be flexibility from the parties", Guajardo said.

However, talks still faced the hurdles of US demands for a sunset clause that would allow NAFTA to expire if it is not renegotiated every five years, and the elimination of settlement panels for trade disputes. Neither Canada nor Mexico wants that.

"And those are very complex issues, particularly rules of origin, so eventually it will come down to every comma, every semicolon, everything before we can figure out if it's something that's workable", said Ross.

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

Kenneth Smith, the head of Mexico's technical negotiating team, reiterated in a radio interview that from Mexico's perspective there are no fixed deadlines it is working towards.

Officials had billed Trudeau's three-day trip to NY and Boston as focused on trade and the economic relationship between Canada and the US, with looming NAFTA deadlines as a backdrop.

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