Trump says trade deal with Mexico ‘could be happening soon’

The Mexican peso is jumping on hope for NAFTA progress

The flags of Canada, Mexico and the USA are seen on a lectern before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City on March 5.

Significant breakthroughs between Mexico and the USA came during the past several days on the issues of automobiles and energy, according to three people familiar with the process who asked not to be named discussing private talks.

"I think, depending what happens today, we could confirm it", he said.

Canada has sat out the most recent phase of the year-long discussions, and once it rejoined the talks, the three sides would need to work for at least another week, Guajardo said.

Speaking after a day of Mexico-U.S. discussions at the offices of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, Guajardo said he now had to consult with business leaders.

Trump's trade team has employed a divide-and-conquer strategy in their attempts to renegotiate NAFTA, which they argue was responsible for "stealing" U.S. manufacturing jobs but which in fact has helped the USA auto sector prosper. A spokesperson for Lighthizer said that there's no deal yet and major issues remain outstanding.

Among the bilateral issues that Mexican officials and the U.S. delegation, led by trade representative Robert Lighthizer, have been discussing are contentious topics such as rules for the auto market, a major area of strategic economic concern for Mexico. The federal government, a few have warned, could find itself forced into deciding whether to accept a less-appetizing deal hashed out between the US and Mexico.

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Canadian officials have argued the bilateral period has been necessary for the US and Mexico to sort out tough issues such as rules of origin for autos.

Seade on Thursday night rejected the idea that the energy issue has become controversial, but said that adjustments need to be made in the Nafta deal language to reflect Mexican sovereignty and rights regarding hydrocarbons in a way that isn't confusing.

Seade insisted the issue of auto country-of-origin rules was "basically resolved", with only details yet to be finalized. "And Canada will very much have a voice in the finalization of all of this".

The Trump administration wants to be able to impose national security tariffs on future Mexican production from new auto assembly and parts plants, according to auto industry officials. Juan Pablo Castanon, president of the CCE group that comprises some of Mexico's most influential industry associations, said Wednesday night that he expects key advances in the NAFTA talks in the next few days. We will just have to wait and see.

Even after the trilateral negotiations resume, the three partners will have to deal with a number of tough sticking points.

He also said that a "correct focus" on NAFTA's energy chapter has already been substantially agreed. Mexico's current government, which is overseeing negotiations until Obrador takes office December 1, has already agreed to such a chapter.

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