As US deadline passes, Mexico says NAFTA deal still doable

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexico said Thursday there is no "do-or-die date" to conclude an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada, as an informal deadline set by the US Congress expired.

"Today is definitely not a do-or-die date. The process is continuing, the technical teams from all three countries are working," said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.

The three countries are racing to overhaul what US President Donald Trump has called the worst trade deal ever signed.

The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, had said he needed negotiators to reach a deal by Thursday if Congress was to approve a new version of the 1994 trade agreement this year, while the Republicans have a majority.

The electoral calendar is pressuring negotiators to wrap up a deal as soon as possible in both the US and Mexico.

US Republicans could lose their majority in November mid-term elections, while Mexico is counting down to a presidential election on July 1 that could bring a leftist free trade skeptic, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to power.

Videgaray said there had been "important advances" in the negotiations and that the United States had ceded ground on some of its demands.

"We will reach a deal when the deal is a good one," he told Mexican TV network Televisa.

Mexico's chief negotiator at the talks, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, said Tuesday that the only deadline as far as Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is concerned is the end of his term: December 1, 2018.

Launched in August at Trump's behest, the talks have hit several stumbling blocks, in particular over US demands to increase the amount of American content in cars.