NAFTA's fate hinges on political "flexibility", says Mexico


May 17 loomed as a deadline for a preliminary agreement after Paul Ryan, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, last week said that for congress to approve a revamped NAFTA, an agreement in principle had to be submitted by that date, or congress would not have enough time to debate and approve it before legislative elections in November. Talks, however, remain hung up on key issues.

On Tuesday, Guajardo had said that the chances of getting an agreement any time soon were fading.

"He's not going to stop until he gets it", she added.

Speaking at an event organised by the Economic Club of New York, Trudeau on Thursday said the three countries are close to strike a renegotiated NAFTA and there is "a good deal on the table" right now, Xinhua news agency reported.

He has not met with his Nafta counterparts since last week.

As negotiations have plodded on, Canada has sounded a more optimistic tone than Mexico.

Lighthizer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The current frontrunner in Mexico's July 1 presidential election, left-leaning Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has pledged to stamp his own imprint on the deal, promising to appoint a new trade negotiator to this end if elected.

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Lighthizer's doubts dashed hopes for a quick resolution after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier on Thursday in NY expressed optimism about reaching an agreement soon, while noting that differences remain.

"An very bad lot of things would have to go right in order for this to be voted on in this Congress", said Eric Miller, a Washington-based trade adviser and Woodrow Wilson Center fellow.

Ryan's Thursday deadline isn't exactly binding. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady says "we're hopeful they'll continue to make progress on this agreement".

It rebuffed an effort from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, and several high-ranking staffers who were in the USA on Thursday urging a quick deal.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says Federal Bureau of Investigation may have placed spy in Trump campaign Giuliani: There is "nothing illegal about looking for dirt on political opponents" Giuliani: If Mueller subpoenas us, we will challenge it MORE has called NAFTA a disaster that needed a total overhaul so it would provide more benefits to the United States.

"Lighthizer said the United States will continue to engage in negotiations to secure a deal beneficial for US workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses".

Trudeau drew another public contradiction Thursday - this one from Mexico. MacNaughton said Canadian and Mexican officials plan to hold discussions in Washington, without saying when. Ardently opposed to this, Canada and Mexico have offered an olive branch in the form of a mooted provision to review the agreement every five years with a view to updating it where necessary.