NAFTA deal unlikely this week, but negotiations continue, Mexico says

Thursday, 17 May, 2018

House Speaker Paul Ryan has told the White House that Congress needs a final package to debate as early as this week if lawmakers are to have enough time to approve the revisions ahead of November's midterm elections.

"They have failed to reach an agreement, and the divisions are fairly fundamental, so I'm not certain that even if Ryan comes back and says, 'I didn't really mean it, there's wiggle room, ' that it's going to make a difference", Alden said.

"It is not easy, we don't think we will have it by Thursday", Guajardo told broadcaster Televisa.

United States House Speaker Paul Ryan set the cut-off date last Wednesday amid some optimism that Mexico, the USA and Canada could soon reach an agreement in principle as a result of meetings attended last week by the chief trade representatives in Washington. Mexico's presidential vote on July 1 also complicates talks.

"We will keep negotiating, and in the moment that we have a good negotiation, we can close the deal. independent of which Congress [the current or new one] that will vote on it", he said.

Mexico's peso sank to its weakest in more than a year on Tuesday.

There are no definite plans for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to meet this week with Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo or Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, although negotiating teams from the three countries are still meeting.

Guajardo says the US needs to show some flexibility on key NAFTA proposals, and he doesn't see it happening by Thursday.

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.

Among the issues the three sides have yet to agree on is a USA proposal to include a so-called sunset clause that would allow the deal to automatically expire every five years, pending renewal.

Guajardo said negotiators were getting close to reaching a deal on rules for the auto sector under NAFTA.

More flexibility was needed for a deal, Guajardo said.

Ross, who is not directly involved in the negotiations, alluded to the idea that talks could still be in progress on June 1, when a US steel and aluminum tariff exemption for Canada and Mexico expires.

Hanging over the talks is Trump's threat to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on its trade partners.

Officials from Canada and Mexico were in D.C. last week working on the terms of a deal, but nothing was reached.