Canada's Trudeau says NAFTA deal 'on the table'

New York (AFP) –


Canada, the United States and Mexico are close to reaching agreement on a new continental trade deal, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday as a negotiating deadline loomed.

"To be honest, there is a deal on the table," he told the Economic Club of New York.

He described trade in automobiles and auto parts as the last major sticking point in the negotiations to revamp the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The United States wants to increase the amount of American content in cars in order to receive duty-free treatment.

Canada and Mexico also have pushed back on a US proposal for NAFTA sunset clause after five years.

"Mexico has put proposals on the table that actually will go a long way towards reducing the trade deficit the US has with Mexico and indeed in bringing back some auto jobs from Mexico to the United States," Trudeau said.

"It's right down to the last conversations," he said, adding that he is "feeling positive" about the chances the three nations will reach a deal but "it won't be done until it's done."

"We remain confident that we can achieve an agreement that is a win-win-win," the prime minister later told a news conference.

US President Donald Trump demanded a review of NAFTA, triggering the trilateral talks that started last August after he railed against the 1994 trade pact as the worst ever signed.

Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said this week that Trump appeared now to be coming around to its importance, though he remains unpredictable.

US House Speaker Paul Ryan had said he needed the written agreement by Thursday if Congress was to approve NAFTA this year, while the Republicans have a majority.

But with talks continuing, Ryan said Thursday there was still some "wiggle room" on the legislative calendar, which "buys the administration and our trading partners two more weeks to get a deal."