MEXICO CITY—Trade negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are looking to agree on a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement in early May, Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Monday.MEXICO CITY—Trade negotiators from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are looking to agree on a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement in early May, Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Monday.
“There’s a very high probability of reaching an agreement in principle, an 80% chance,” Mr. Guajardo said in an interview on the Televisa network.
U.S. negotiators have accelerated negotiations and want to reach a deal in principle that they can present to the U.S. Congress under the existing trade promotion authority.
Mr. Guajardo, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland met in Washington last week seeking to step up negotiations and clear roadblocks on the most controversial issues, such as rules of origin for cars and light trucks manufactured in North America.
Mr. Guajardo said there were no conditions to reach an agreement in principle at that meeting, but that trade teams agreed to be in “permanent talks” instead of having a formal eighth round of negotiations. “The teams are in Washington,” he said.
The official confirmed that negotiators are discussing a proposal from the U.S. that calls for certain vehicle parts to be made in zones where wages average at least $15 an hour, which excludes Mexico, as part of the content calculation.
“The proposal would be aspirational, unreachable for Mexico in the short-term,” because the country doesn’t have such wage levels, he said. But the U.S. government first needs to reach an agreement with its own car manufacturers on such a plan.
“The devil is in the details,” Mr. Guajardo added. With U.S. eagerness to reach a deal soon, “when there’s urgency, there must be flexibility,” he said.
The Nafta countries originally set January 2018 as the goal for concluding Nafta talks, then pushed the deadline to March 31.