By David Ljunggren
WASHINGTON, May 11 : Mexico will not be rushed into revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) just to get a deal, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Friday ahead of trilateral talks with his U.S. and Canadian counterparts.
Guajardo said he would meet at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) with Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and that the three are closer to agreeing new rules for autos that are vital for a deal.
However, Guajardo, who is eager to reach an agreement on all the principal aspects of a modernized NAFTA before sealing a new deal, said plenty of other issues were outstanding.
“I have to make very clear (that) the quality of the agreement and the balance of the agreement has to be maintained. So we are not going to sacrifice balance and quality for time,” he told reporters on the doorsteps of Lighthizer’s office.
“We believe there is a way to solve autos. I think we are trying to make a very good effort … We are looking at the whole set of items we have to solve. So it’s not autos, it’s everything else.” Guajardo and Freeland have been meeting Lighthizer separately since the start of the week. Friday’s trilateral meeting will be the first held this week.
Drafting new rules of origin governing what percentage of a car needs to be built in the NAFTA region to avoid tariffs has been at the center of the talks to update the 1994 deal. It forms a key plank of the Trump administration’s aim to boost jobs and investment in the United States.
Officials and industry sources say the three sides have been gradually narrowing their differences on autos.
However, several other major issues are still unresolved, including U.S. demands for a five-year sunset clause that would allow NAFTA to expire, and elimination of settlement panels for trade disputes.
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan set a May 17 deadline to be notified of a new NAFTA to give the current Congress a chance of passing it. The United States will hold elections in November for a new Congress that will be seated early next year.
Mexico’s top trade official, however, said time was running short to meet such a deadline. Mexico will hold its presidential election on July 1.