US President Points Out Possible Trade Agreement with Mexico

Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo enters the Office of the US Trade Representative during a day of meetings on the NAFTA treaty in Washington

With signs of progress apparent, the high-level American-Mexican meetings stretched through the weekend.

Among the sticking points emerging during this week's discussions in Washington between the USA and Mexico toward a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement is a proposal by the administration to increase the tariffs on cars imported from Mexico that don't meet stricter new content rules, according to five people familiar with the discussions.

"There's been no indication of flexibility from the USA on this issue", a senior Canadian official told AFP on Thursday.

The three countries have been negotiating for a year to save the free trade agreement that US President Donald Trump considers disastrous for his country.

Canada has sat out the most recent phase of the year-long discussions, and once it rejoined the talks, the three sides would need to work for at least another week, Guajardo said.

However, disagreement remains over what penalties should exist in the event that automakers fail to meet the new higher requirements. Juan Pablo Castanon, president of the CCE group that comprises some of Mexico's most influential industry associations, said Wednesday night that he expects key advances in the NAFTA talks in the next few days.

Canada has been waiting for the Mexican and US teams to reach common ground before rejoining the negotiations.

Clark said there are expectations Freeland will return to Washington on Friday.

Freeland didn't directly say whether she would cut her European trip short if Canada is invited back to the table. "And Canada will very much have a voice in the finalization of all of this".

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Over the weekend, Reuters reported that Jesus Seade, the chief negotiator for Mexico's incoming government, said the USA had softened its demands for the inclusion of a so-called "sunset clause" within NAFTA.

The so-called sunset clause is one of those issues "because it implies extension of NAFTA and NAFTA is a trilateral agreement", he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that his government "will only sign a good deal for Canadians". Meanwhile, the lobbying efforts of Canada continue in a "full court press", as officials have been calling it.

He suggested earlier this month that his administration had deliberately iced Canada out of the NAFTA talks.

"Our relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour", Trump said Saturday in his Twitter message.

Trump has softened his tone recently both about the trade accord and about Mexico, a nation that he argues has stolen and done little to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking to the United States.

Guajardo has said he hoped that a deal in principle would be possible in August. It wasn't but a few years ago that Mexico's vast gas and oil reserves were opened up to global investors and markets.

The Trump administration's push in the Nafta talks comes alongside continuing threats by the president to slap tariffs on cars imported from major manufacturing centers in Asia and Europe.

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