US running out of time on NAFTA while confronting China


Advertisment Canadian officials in Ottawa say no deal on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will be reached this week in time to meet a deadline imposed by the USA government.

Lighthizer's doubts dashed hopes for a quick resolution after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier on Thursday in NY expressed optimism about reaching an agreement soon, while noting that differences remain.

Likewise, November's mid-term legislative elections are also bearing down in the United States, leaving lawmakers in the majority Republican party with little bandwidth to absorb a deal as they fight to hold on to power. The three countries have been negotiating for nine months to modernize NAFTA, and midterm congressional elections in the USA and a Mexican presidential campaign this year have raised the urgency for a quick resolution.

If a NAFTA deal is not reached before the election, Mexico's negotiators will work closely with the incoming government's transition team, Smith told Mexican radio. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's spokesman called the deadline a US issue.

The prime minister received a call from U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday night in which they discussed the NAFTA negotiations, but a readout provided by Trudeau's office did not include any details.

"We are close to a deal", the prime minister said in NY.

"We're down to the point where a good deal is on the table", Trudeau said.

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In Mexico, officials on Thursday downplayed the importance of Ryan's deadline. "We know that those last conversations in any deal are extremely important, so I'm feeling positive about this, but it won't be done until it's done". Yet those talks have stalled over differences between the USA and Mexico.

Mexico's economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo tweeted on Thursday that Trudeau's remarks needed clarification saying that any renegotiated NAFTA "that implies losses of existing Mexican jobs is unacceptable".

Trudeau used an example created to appeal to a certain former real-estate developer who is now the US president; he compared the termination clause to building a skyscraper on a parcel of land you might lose in five years.

U.S. Representative Kevin Brady, the chairman of the tax and trade-focused House Ways and Means Committee, said there was probably little room to go past the Thursday deadline for a deal and still get a new NAFTA approved by year end.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said again this week that the administration would need to notify Congress this week if it wants the current Congress to vote on the deal by the end of the year under the so-called fast-track legislation.

Despite the pessimistic message, Lighthizer vowed to keep trying to reach a deal.