The US has softened its contentious demand for a NAFTA “sunset clause”, potentially eliminating a key obstacle to reaching a deal to revamp the trade pact.
On Saturday, Donald Trump tweeted that the US could reach a “big Trade Agreement” with Mexico imminently.
Jesús Seade, chief negotiator for Mexico’s next government, said the new US position would allow a periodic review of the North American Free Trade Agreement without an automatic expiration unless renegotiated every five years.
“It’s going to come out,” Seade told reporters outside the US trade representative’s office. “It’s no longer what the United States was putting first in any way.”
Seade said he and the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, were now discussing a periodic review process that would spare NAFTA from automatic expiration unless new terms were agreed.
A spokeswoman for Lighthizer’s office denied he had softened his position on the sunset clause, without further elaboration.
The US and Mexico have been holding bilateral talks aimed at resolving differences in the NAFTA renegotiation. Canada is also part of the agreement.
Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that the US “relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour. Some really good people within both the new and old government, and all working closely together … a big Trade Agreement with Mexico could be happening soon!”
Asked about Trump’s tweet, the Mexican economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, acknowledged some progress but told reporters in Washington before beginning another day of talks that the two countries were “not there yet”.
“Nothing is done until everything is truly done,” he said.
The US-Mexico talks have for weeks focused on crafting new rules for the automotive industry, which Trump has put at the center of his drive to rework the 24-year-old deal. Seade said the issue of auto sector rules was “basically resolved”, although some aspects, including time frames, were still being discussed.