Mexico upbeat on NAFTA progress

AFP-Jiji WASHINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. and Mexican negotiators have made progress in narrowing differences on the update of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Thursday.

The steps to reach agreement could allow Canada to rejoin talks next week, he told reporters as he entered meetings for the second day with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

U.S. and Mexican officials have said they aim to conclude discussions this month. It is the third straight week ministers have traveled to Washington for meetings.

Teams worked through the night “changing the text” and “got a lot of work done,” Guajardo said.

But the thornier issues are being left to the end, including the U.S. demand that NAFTA be approved every five years, a provision known as a sunset clause.

“We are organizing the items according to the degree of complexity, and sunset clause is the very last,” he said.

Mexico has repeatedly said it was opposed to including such a clause.

The U.S. and Mexican teams have spent a lot of time on issues involving the auto industry, and Guajardo said earlier this week they had reached an agreement on the U.S. demands that a share of vehicle components with duty-free treatment come from countries with high wages.Speech

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