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Mexico repeats it wants three-way accord after Trump sows new doubts

Economy secretary will meet with US officials next week in Washington

Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo repeated yesterday that Mexico will seek to maintain a trilateral trade agreement in North America after United States President Donald Trump once again suggested the U.S. could pursue separate deals with Mexico and Canada.

Guajardo said an agreement in principle for an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could still be reached at the end of August and that a definitive version of a new pact could follow in November.

He added that he would travel to Washington D.C. on July 26 for bilateral trade talks and would later meet with Canadian officials, telling reporters that the three countries are “resuming negotiations.”

Earlier yesterday, Trump returned to the separate accords idea he first floated at the start of June, sowing fresh doubts about the future of the 24-year-old agreement.

“We have had very good sessions with Mexico and with the new president of Mexico, who won overwhelmingly, and we’re doing very well on our trade agreement,” the president said.

“So we’ll see what happens. We may do a deal separately with Mexico and we’ll negotiate with Canada at a later time. But we’re having very good discussions with Mexico.”

A United States delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Mexico City last Friday and met with president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador after first meeting with current President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Pompeo said during the visit that “President Trump cares deeply for the success of the relationship between our two countries” and that while “there have been bumps in the road,” the president is “determined to make the relationship between our peoples better and stronger.”

López Obrador, who won the July 1 election with 53% of the vote, has said that he will support the current administration in its ongoing NAFTA negotiations during the five-month transition period and has made it clear that he wants the agreement to continue.

At Friday’s meeting, he submitted a proposal for the future of the bilateral relationship to the Pompeo-led delegation that covered a range of issues including NAFTA, migration, security and development.

Specific details of the proposals and discussions were not disclosed but Pompeo said yesterday that “we made clear to them [Mexico] that the migration issue must be resolved and we need to have strong borders.”

“We talked to them about trade. There will be more, I think, in the coming days to talk about — the progress we’re making on trying to resolve the issues on NAFTA. I’m very hopeful there.”

Negotiations to modernize the deal began last August and were initially scheduled to finish by the end of last year but talks have moved slowly as Mexico and Canada struggle to accommodate United States demands.

The negotiations were further complicated by the United States’ decision to impose metal tariffs on both Mexico and Canada from June 1 on national security grounds.

The move was widely seen as a strategy to pressure its neighbors into accepting the NAFTA amendments it is seeking.

Both Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were scathing of the decision and Mexico and Canada introduced their own retaliatory measures.

However, both leaders were also quick to reaffirm their commitment to NAFTA but Trump has refused to give the same level of commitment as his Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

But while he has been highly critical of NAFTA and threatened to terminate it, Trump hasn’t completely shut the door on the possibility of a new deal being reached.

That position was reiterated by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders yesterday when asked whether trilateral talks and separate Canadian talks were off the table.

“We’re continuing both of those tracks. We see a lot of progress on the conversations with Mexico, and if we could make a bilateral deal with them, we’re certainly very happy to do that. But, again, we’re continuing both conversations, both tracks.”

Source: El Financiero (sp), Reuters (en)

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