US, Mexico aiming to reach deal on Nafta by August

WASHINGTON • Mexico and the United States have agreed to step up talks on updating the Nafta trade deal in hopes of reaching an agreement on major issues by next month, Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo said.

Mr Guajardo said he had constructive and very positive talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Mr Jared Kushner.

North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) talks among the United States, Mexico and Canada had stalled since last month when the US slapped tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminium, and both countries responded with tit-for-tat measures on products such as US pork and ketchup.

Mr Lighthizer told US lawmakers on Thursday he expected to reach a deal with Mexico "some time in August" and that an agreement with Canada could follow.

Mr Trump has said that he could seek a bilateral deal with Mexico, but Mr Guajardo said the US-Mexico talks would lead to discussions with Canada and "a trilateral dialogue when we get closer to the conclusion".

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she and Mr Guajardo had met this week and insisted that Nafta remain a trilateral pact. Both reiterated their opposition to US calls for a "sunset clause" that would put the deal up for renewal every five years.

US demands for changes in the car sector have been a stumbling block. The run-up to Mexico's presidential election this month had also complicated the holding of talks. The talks to revamp Nafta began in August last year at the request of Mr Trump, who threatened to leave the pact if he did not get more benefits for US workers.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2018, with the headline 'US, Mexico aiming to reach deal on Nafta by August'. Print Edition | Subscribe