NAFTA deal unlikely this week, says economy minister

Canada Mexico and the U.S. are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City

Mexico's economy minister said that he saw diminishing chances for a new North American Free Trade Agreement ahead of a Thursday deadline to present a deal that could be signed by the current U.S. Congress.

Guajardo says the USA needs to show some flexibility on key NAFTA proposals, and he doesn't see it happening by Thursday.

Reaching an updated NAFTA deal before Thursday's deadline is looking unlikely, Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo said today.

"We don't think it will happen by Thursday". Congress has fewer legislative days this year due to mid-term elections in November.

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

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is leading polls to win the Mexican presidential race. "So depending on where we are on NAFTA on June 1, the president will decide whether or not to extend their situation", Ross said.

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.

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

Among the issues the three sides have yet to agree on is a US proposal to include a so-called sunset clause that would allow the deal to automatically expire every five years, pending renewal.

In the five-month period between election day and the swearing-in ceremony, Guajardo said, the next government's team would need to be involved in any ongoing trilateral trade talks. Neither Canada nor Mexico wants that.

Guajardo said that negotiators were close to reaching agreement on rules of origin for the auto sector.

Ross, who is not directly involved in the negotiations, alluded to the idea that talks could still be in progress on June 1, when a US steel and aluminum tariff exemption for Canada and Mexico expires. Mexico and Canada have been spared so far, although the latest exemption for them will run out at the end of May.

"There's no question the possibility exists, we're interested and I think the United States and Canada share this view", he said, speaking to broadcaster Enfoque Noticias.

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