US, Mexican negotiators set for more NAFTA talks

Arturo Kim
August 27, 2018

But after a year of intense negotiations aimed at salvaging the 25-year-old pact that Trump has previously referred to as a "disaster", the USA and Mexico now appear to be close to a point where Canada can rejoin the talks.

Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that the United States' "relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour".

"A big Trade Agreement with Mexico could be happening soon!"

While Trump has floated the idea of negotiating bilateral trade accords - finalising one with Mexico before moving on to Canada - both Mexico and Canada have said they want to keep a three-nation deal.

"I would say that we're practically in the final hours of this negotiation", Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters before his meeting with U.S. counterpart Robert Lighthizer, according to Reuters.

The discussions have mostly been centered on autos but dispute resolution issues are also snags.

The "sunset clause" - an automatic cancellation of all agreements after five years - has been a major demand from the USA administration, but Mexico believes it can agree to a renegotiated version of this.

Trump has been pushing Mexico and Canada to agree to the clause, which would allow for a renegotiation of the deal every five years, and for a NAFTA member nation to withdraw at the same time.

In Washington, Guajardo said Wednesday that he hoped to have a solution in "the next couple of hours, or couple of days".

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US and Mexican negotiations on automotive trade had hindered progress on an overall NAFTA deal.

"I think it was just a negotiating reality, but there's no question in my mind that it was created to impose maximum leverage - as any negotiator would", said Ujczo, who works for the law firm Dickinson Wright.

Even so, the USA administration has been seeking to impose a cap on Mexican vehicle and SUV exports to the United States that could be sent duty-free or at a 2.5 percent tariff, complicating the auto talks, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The flags of Canada, Mexico and the USA are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City on March 5. Lighthizer and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser, declined to comment on Sunday afternoon as they left the trade representative's offices.

"We are very encouraged by what we're hearing from our NAFTA partners", Freeland said in Nanaimo, B.C., where she's taking part in a Liberal government cabinet retreat.

Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters on Sunday a deal between the US and Mexico was nearing completion.

In 2013, however, the Mexican government opened up the industry to investment - a decision opposed by Obrador.

Lopez Obrador, a leftist populist who was elected in a landslide on July 1, said Friday that the NAFTA talks were proceeding well.

Jesus Seade, an economic advisor to Mexico's incoming president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has been participating in portions of the NAFTA talks and said the sunset clause "is going out", according to press reports from Mexico City.

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