Mexico wants NAFTA negotiations wrapped up before 2018 elections

By Elliot Bullman

U.S., Mexican and Canadian officials have agreed to an aggressive timetable to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sources said, aiming to conclude early next year to avoid Mexico’s 2018 presidential elections.

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The plan is to hold seven rounds of talks at three-week intervals. Described by one Mexican official as a "very aggressive calendar," the sources said the goal was to conclude the talks before the electoral campaign gets into full swing.

The first round of talks to upgrade the accord underpinning over a trillion dollars of trilateral trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada is due to take place in Washington from Aug. 16-20.

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U.S.administration officials said Mexico had asked for the negotiations to be completed by the end of the year before the Mexican presidential election heats up.

Lighthizer has said he hopes the negotiations could be wrapped up by the end of the year, while noting that he was not prepared to set a deadline for the talks.

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Lighthizer, who by U.S. rules is the chief NAFTA negotiator, said in June that completing the negotiations by the year end was a "very, very quick time frame and we're not going to have a bad agreement to save time."

U.S. officials caution that if things go badly on the trade front, Mexico would gain leverage on immigration. It has been praised by U.S. officials for curbing the flow of Central American immigrants through Mexico, but it could decide to reduce its border enforcement.

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