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As US deadline passes, Mexico says NAFTA deal still doable

18 May 2018

Among them: government procurement, US access to Canada's dairy market, the system for resolving trade disputes, and the USA proposal for a "sunset clause" that would automatically terminate NAFTA in five years absent a new endorsement from all three countries.

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

Canada launched a multi-front push for a quick NAFTA deal Thursday, vowing to keep working despite a failure to complete negotiations in time to meet a politically significant target date.

"The NAFTA countries are nowhere near close to a deal", Lighthizer said in a statement. Ryan is hoping for a deal sooner than that.

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Some fear delay will add political unpredictability, since numerous politicians now involved will no longer be in politics next year: Mexico will have a new administration, the USA will have a new Congress after midterm elections, and several senior American lawmakers are retiring.

Chief Mexican NAFTA negotiator Kenneth Smith said that the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto had a responsibility to keep negotiating until Mexico's new president, who will be elected on July 1, takes office on December 1. Yet those talks have stalled over differences between the USA and Mexico.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch and a supporter of some of the Trump administration's Nafta demands such as a five-year sunset clause, pushed back against Ryan's deadline.

"We will keep negotiating, and in the moment that we have a good negotiation, we can close the deal. independent of which Congress (the current or new) that will vote on it", he said on Televisa.

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Mexican officials - including the economy secretary, Ildefonso Guajardo, who is leading the Nafta talks - have insisted that the negotiations be confined to the content of the agreement itself, and not include immigration.

"Any renegotiated NAFTA that implies losses of existing Mexican jobs is unacceptable".

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. On Thursday, he revised that slightly. However, the Canadian government does not appear to be in a rush for a deal to be reached. This takes into account the practical realities faced by companies and investors, which customarily map out their business strategies with significantly longer timeframes in mind; with the threat of expiry ever present, many claim that investor confidence and commercial certainty would erode beyond fix, with serious knock-on effects for all parties involved.

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As US deadline passes, Mexico says NAFTA deal still doable