As US deadline passes, Mexico says NAFTA deal still doable

As US deadline passes, Mexico says NAFTA deal still doable

The talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have been hung up on United States demands to increase American content in cars that receive duty free treatment in the trade bloc, and to have a sunset provision, which would require the three governments to renew the treaty after five years. Mr. Austen also said that Canada, the US and Mexico have made "good progress" during this spring's talks, particularly on issues impacting the automotive industry.

The NAFTA renegotiations are expected to now enter a period of prolonged delay because of the Mexican presidential election in July and the US congressional midterm elections in November.

Among them: government procurement, US access to Canada's dairy market, the system for resolving trade disputes, and the USA proposal for a "sunset clause" that would automatically terminate NAFTA in five years absent a new endorsement from all three countries. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's spokesman called the deadline a US issue. Mexico's presidential election will be held in July, and the expected victor could take a harder stance against President Donald Trump and renegotiating the trade deal.

"I'm confident in saying that we have found a proposal that is broadly acceptable to the three partners and our industries on the auto side of things", he said, according to news reports.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch and a supporter of some of the Trump administration's Nafta demands such as a five-year sunset clause, pushed back against Ryan's deadline.

Mexico will send part of its NAFTA team to Washington on Monday, and another contingent is already there, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Thursday.

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"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", Guajardo told journalists.

But Trudeau said that the main reason Canada is holding off on a deal is Lighthizer's push for a five-year sunset clause. In any case, he said he was ready to keep negotiating: "We'll keep working until they shut off the lights". "But a clarification is necessary: any renegotiated NAFTA that implies losses of existing Mexican jobs is unacceptable", he said.

The Mexicans have been eager to finalize an accord before their presidential election, which is scheduled for July 1.

"There are gaping differences on intellectual property, agricultural market access, de minimis levels, energy, labor, rules of origin, geographical indications, and much more", U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Thursday in a statement e-mailed by his press office.

Some in the Canadian government have mused about the potential strategic benefits of dragging out the talks.

House Speaker Paul Ryan warned a new Nafta deal had to be completed by Thursday, but Donald Trump's trade chief told lawmakers he expects that deadline will not be met.

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