NAFTA talks with US to continue next week: Mexico's Guajardo

Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo speaks to reporters outside the Office of the US Trade Representative during a day of meetings on the NAFTA treaty on August 23, 2018 in Washington, DC

US and Mexican negotiators are making progress on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement but will need to continue the discussions next week, Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Thursday.

The negotiations "are well advanced," he told reporters, but "we are not there yet."

Canada needs to reengage in the talks before the NAFTA rewrite can completed and "the only way that can happen is if we continue through the weekend and into next week," he added.

Guajardo and Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray have been shuttling back and forth to Washington for more than a month for meetings with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to try to iron out the bilateral issues, such as rules for the auto market, before the end of August.

Officials last week indicated they expected a breakthrough this week but "negotiations are highly complex," Guajardo said on his way into yet another meeting.

He has cautioned that some of the hardest issues were still on the table, including the US demand for a five-year "sunset clause," which would oblige the three countries to renew the pact regularly.

"There's been no indication of flexibility from the US on this issue," a senior Canadian official told AFP on Thursday.

Canada's top diplomat and chief NAFTA negotiator, Chrystia Freeland, said Wednesday she was encouraged by the progress and would rejoin the talks once Washington and Mexico City finish their bilateral discussions.

The three countries have been negotiating for a year to salvage the trade pact that President Donald Trump says has been a "disaster" for the United States.