Mexico sees US-Canada trade deal 'in the coming days'

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexico said Wednesday it was optimistic the US and Canada would reach a trade deal "in the coming days," as its top North American trade negotiator and foreign minister jetted to Washington.

The movement on the Mexican side was the latest sign of progress in efforts to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has bound the three countries for 25 years.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday it was "eminently possible" that the United States and Canada would reach a deal to keep Ottawa in a revamped US-Mexican agreement announced in late August.

She then flew home from Washington to give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a progress report.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who is leading his country's side of the talks, said he had dispatched his top negotiator, Kenneth Smith, to Washington to "continue moving forward."

"There's no doubt there are difficult issues at the end, but they're growing fewer, and I would hope this could be settled in the coming days," Guajardo told journalists.

"I'm clearly working with my team on this. Today Kenneth Smith left for Washington to continue moving forward on arranging the texts," he said on the sidelines of an economic forum in Mexico City.

Smith later tweeted: "Back in Washington DC to work with the US on the review of bilaterally agreed texts as part of the NAFTA modernization process. We will also continue following bilateral negotiations between the US and Canada. #NAFTAWorks."

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray also flew into Washington for a working visit.

His ministry said he would "continue working on the bilateral agenda" with White House officials and also meet with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

The United States, Mexico and Canada have been negotiating for more than a year to update NAFTA at the behest of US President Donald Trump, who says the deal has been a "rip-off" for America.

The Trump administration has informed Congress it plans to sign a new trade deal with Mexico -- and possibly Canada -- by November 30.

But there are still sticky issues for the US and Canada to work out: an international system for resolving disputes, Canada's protected dairy industry and Canadian cultural subsidies.