Mexico doubts that a NAFTA deal is possible by Thursday target date

Don’t expect a NAFTA deal by this week’s supposed target date, Mexico’s economy minister said Tuesday.

Ildefonso Guajardo told his country’s Televisa network that he doesn’t see a deal happening by Thursday, which the U.S. Congress calls the latest possible date to get a deal in order to have time to vote on it this year.

“It is not easy. We don’t believe we’ll have it by Thursday,” Guajardo said.

But he said a deal is still possible. He only disputes the notion that there is a real deadline for making it happen, just because further delay beyond this week could complicate the implementation process in Congress.

Guajardo said the U.S. needs to show some flexibility on key NAFTA proposals.

He even revealed the details of a conversation on that subject between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump, who spoke by phone on Monday.

He said the Canadian prime minister delivered a similar message to Trump.

“What Prime Minister Trudeau told him is there are the ingredients … there for arriving at an agreement,” Guajardo said. “As of this moment, you could have a negotiated deal at any time. …

“The problem is you need flexibility from the parties.”

He said the American side needs to drop some of its impractical proposals — some of which he called contradictory. He specifically mentioned the U.S. idea of a five-year sunset clause, which would automatically end NAFTA after five years unless all three parties agreed to keep it.

Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarrea and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland look on as United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer delivers his statements to the media earlir this year. Guajardo said a deal is still possible, but disputes the notion that there is a real deadline for making it happen. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Guajardo pointed to the chaos that could cause in the auto sector. He said the U.S. is on the one hand pushing changes that will force auto companies to spend the next few years reorganizing their supply chains, while on the other hand pushing an idea that could cancel NAFTA.

“Imagine that,” Guajardo said.

Canadian officials would not comment on the details of this week’s Trudeau-Trump call. Both countries did put out statements revealing that the leaders spoke about the prompt conclusion of negotiations.

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