Officials from the United States and Mexico said Monday that NAFTA talks are progressing well, but not enough to announce a deal in principle in the near future.
Mexico’s economy minister said he saw an 80 per cent chance of a new NAFTA deal by the first week of May, and told a TV interviewer that conditions were not right for reaching an agreement this week.
Ildefonso Guajardo said U.S. negotiators were under pressure to strike a new deal by the first week of May to give U.S. Congress members time to discuss a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement, given that the makeup of both chambers will change after U.S. midterm elections in November.
“We’re weeks away,” Guajardo said. “We should know if we will be able to close this by the first week of May at the latest. …. There’s a very high probability, about 80 per cent, that we reach an agreement in principle.”
Guajardo added that the eighth round of talks was now largely irrelevant. “We’re in a type of permanent round,” he said. “The technical groups are working on areas like the automotive rules of origin.”
There was similar messaging coming out of the U.S. on Monday, as White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said things were proceeding well.
“Progress is being made on renegotiating and recalibrating NAFTA … good progress,” Kudlow told CNBC in an interview, adding that there should be “much greater currency co-operation” between the United States and Mexico.
Negotiations to rework NAFTA began last year after President Donald Trump took office promising to take the United States out of the 1994 agreement if it could not be reworked to better serve U.S. interests.
Talks continue this week in Washington.