MEXICO CITY -- President Donald Trump's push for a quick resolution to NAFTA talks is being stymied by persistent differences among the U.S., Canada and Mexico over a handful of the make-or-break issues.
After seven rounds of talks rotating between the three countries, negotiators have entered what they've called a permanent round in Washington and are expected to keep going until a deal is struck.
Digging in for more technical talks starting on Monday, they remain at loggerheads over regional content rules for automobiles and other sticking points, even as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said over the weekend that an agreement could be wrapped up in weeks.
A meeting between cabinet-level trade officials planned for last week to deal with the toughest issues was canceled when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer decided to skip a regional summit in Peru. It's unclear when it can be rescheduled.
While talks are continuing on less contentious topics such as the environment and financial services, they weren't the catalysts that spurred Trump to call for a renegotiation of the decades-old trade deal in the first place. And on key topics -- from cars to government procurement -- the U.S. is sticking with demands that its partners consider untenable.
Although leaders of the countries say a deal could be completed within weeks, that won't be possible if the sides remain as far apart on the most important points as they are now, according to people familiar with the talks.
"The only way that this thing gets done, frankly, is if Donald Trump capitulates," Jerry Dias, head of Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union representing auto workers, said on Friday after meeting with Canada's lead NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul.
"Ultimately, he is going to have to find a way to claim a victory while backing off of a whole host of U.S. proposals. I don't know how you do both," Dias said.
Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for USTR, declined to comment.
Trump's negotiating team is pushing for a deal by early May. That's in order to meet U.S. timelines for having an agreement approved, at the latest, by the lame-duck congressional session following midterm elections in November, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.