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'Our relationship is getting closer': Donald Trump hints at new trade agreement between US and Mexico

The trilateral NAFTA treaty has been a key target of the US president’s aggressive trade strategy.

President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks to the Ohio Republican Party State Dinner
President Donald Trump arrives to deliver remarks to the Ohio Republican Party State Dinner
Image: Evan Vucci/AP

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has hinted that the US and Mexico could be about to agree a new trade deal.

Negotiators from both countries are holding talks this weekend in an attempt to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The trilateral treaty has been a key target in the US president’s aggressive trade strategy, and he has repeatedly threatened to scrap it altogether.

But after a year of intense negotiations aimed at salvaging the pact, the US and Mexico now appear to be close to a point where Canada can rejoin the talks.

“Our relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour,” Trump tweeted.

“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!”

His tweet followed a similarly optimistic message from Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who said on Friday that bilateral meetings with the US were “very far” along.

Guajardo and Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray have made multiple trips to Washington in the last month to try to iron out major bilateral stumbling blocks before the end of August.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland — representing the third party in the pact — said this week that she was encouraged by the progress between the two countries, and that Canada would rejoin the talks once the bilateral discussions had concluded.

‘Sunset’ clause

Guajardo would not go into detail about the topics that still had to be negotiated with the United States, but said the agreement could happen at any time.

“The idea is that we are staying because we know there are issues to resolve,” he said.

“And we have to make sure that everybody feels comfortable with this agreement.”

A contentious ‘sunset’ proposal by the United States — to require that the nearly 25-year-old trade pact is reauthorised every five years — must include the approval of all three partners, Guajardo said.

Jesus Seade, an economic advisor to the incoming Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, says the sunset clause “is going out,” according to press reports from Mexico.

The United States and Mexico are keen to seal a new deal before Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hands over power to Lopez Obrador on 1 December.

For that to happen, the US Congress must be notified 90 days in advance.

The three countries have been negotiating for a year to save the free-trade agreement, which has been in effect for almost 25 years but that Trump has previously called a “disaster”.

Guajardo and Lighthizer began meeting at the end of July after negotiations between the three partners stalled in May.

© AFP 2018

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