NAFTA talks with US ‘very far’ along: Mexico’s Guajardo


US and Mexican negotiators will continue meeting through the weekend to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement and Canada is set to rejoin the talks as soon as they are called, Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Friday.

Guajardo and Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray have been shuttling back and forth to Washington for more than a month for meetings with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to try to iron out bilateral issues, such as rules for the auto market, before the end of August.

But Guajardo told reporters that Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was ready at any point to proceed with the NAFTA negotiations.

“I have confirmation that she would be available the moment we believe we can enter into the trilateral” discussions, he said.

Freeland said earlier in the week that she was encouraged by the progress between Washington and Mexico City and would rejoin the talks once the bilateral discussions concluded.

However, her office announced Friday she would travel to Europe August 26-30 for visits in Germany, France and Ukraine.

The Mexican official declined to go into detail on the topics remaining with the United States but said the agreement could happen at any time.

“The idea is that we are staying because we know there are issues to resolve,” he said. “And we have to make sure that everybody feels comfortable with this agreement.”

Earlier Friday, Guajardo said officials were “very far” along in efforts to deal with the US-Mexico issues but added “there are trilateral issues that have to be solved in a trilateral context.”

A contentious proposal by the United States — which would require the nearly 25-year-old trade pact be reauthorized every five years — is one that must include all three partners, Guajardo said.

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.

Guajardo declined to comment on Seade’s remarks but said the teams were working together on behalf of Mexico.

A senior Canadian official told AFP on Thursday there had been “no indication of flexibility from the US on this issue.”

The three countries have been negotiating for a year to salvage the trade pact that President Donald Trump says has been a “disaster” for the United States.

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