MEXICO CITY — Ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico meeting in Washington could agree on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement in the next 10 days, a Mexican business leader said on Tuesday.
Negotiators have said a new NAFTA could be possible by early May, and officials hailed progress on the key issue of new automotive sector rules last week.
“In the coming 10 days we can really have a new agreement in principle,” said Moises Kalach, head of the international negotiating arm of the CCE business lobby, which represents the Mexican private sector at the NAFTA talks.
Even so, differences remain on U.S. demands to change dispute resolution mechanisms and other issues.
“As soon as there is political will from the American government to go for a final deal, I think we can close this,” Kalach told local radio.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were to meet on Tuesday in Washington.
“We’ve had all our [negotiating] teams in Washington for two weeks and we will continue working all this week, the weekend and into next week,” said Kalach.
Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said also on Tuesday that agreeing to a new NAFTA deal will depend on the flexibility of negotiations as he prepared to meet his U.S. and Canadian counterparts in Washington.
“Any day that you start [to] walk towards a goal nobody can guarantee that you will achieve it, [it] depends on the commitment and flexibilities around the table,” he told reporters when asked if a deal was imminent.
Guajardo also said there was no need for a separate deal with the United States on steel and aluminum by May 1 when the current exemption on U.S. tariffs expires.
“I think whatever we do has to take into account the kind of commitment that we’re going to do in NAFTA, and definitely, Mexico has been very clear: we will not accept any type of restrictions in aluminum or steel,” he said.