Mexico minister says trying to get NAFTA deal as soon as possible

Mexico minister says trying to get NAFTA deal as soon as possible

"The story of these types of things is always defined in the final minute, and I would say that we're practically into the final hours of this negotiation", Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said.

President Donald Trump's plans to punish carmakers who produce vehicles outside the US and sell them to Americans are hindering his administration's efforts to close the deal on a new Nafta this month.

Now, the United States, Canada and Mexico can resume talks on pressing issues of trilateral concern, such as demands by the United States that a new pact remove the old agreement's investor-state dispute settlement mechanism and include a sunset clause mandating a review of the free trade agreement every several years.

Energy, the Journal reported, was left out of the original NAFTA when it came into force 24 years ago because Mexico's state monopoly on oil didn't allow private investment in the industry. Politicians from all the three sides have repeatedly called for the agreement to be modernized, as e-commerce and digital services have largely re-shaped the trade patterns that were in place at the time the deal was signed. A spokesperson for Lighthizer said that there's no deal yet and major issues remain outstanding.

Industry sources say they are close to agreeing on raising the regional automotive content threshold for tariff-free access under NAFTA to around 75 percent from 62.5 percent.

The hurry-up-and-wait uncertainty surrounding Canada's return to the NAFTA talks is entering a new week as Ottawa's partners in the trilateral deal push forward with their one-on-one negotiations.

Trump said on Saturday that Washington could reach agreement with Mexico "soon" as the chief trade negotiator of Mexico's incoming president signaled possible solutions to energy rules and a contentious USA "sunset clause" demand.

"Obviously [auto] rules of origin is an issue where detail matters, and Canada will very much have a voice in the finalization of all of this", Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign minister, told reporters Wednesday. He was one of the first people who Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met with following his July 1 election as Mexico's next president.

The negotiations "are well advanced", he told reporters, but "we are not there yet". Yet certain US demands that affect all three NAFTA nations remain unresolved and could still be deal breakers.

Canadian officials have argued the bilateral period has been necessary for the USA and Mexico to sort out tough issues such as rules of origin for autos. For this reason alone, the United States should withdraw from NAFTA regardless of how favorable some aspects of the agreement may appear on the surface.

While Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's government is officially in charge of the negotiation, any Nafta deal will need Lopez Obrador's support because it needs to pass a Mexican Senate controlled by his allies, and it will be up to his government to implement it. Lopez Obrador will be sworn in December 1.

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