US, Mexico NAFTA negotiators to resume talks next week: minister

‘Canada must wait’ on trade deal but agreement with Mexico coming along nicely, Trump tweets

WASHINGTON, D.C. It could be "days or weeks" before Canada is invited back to the NAFTA bargaining table, Mexico's top trade negotiator said Friday after nearly a month of meetings between his country and the United States - with no Canadians in the room.

"Canada must wait. Their Tariffs and Trade Barriers are far too high".

Two American sources who have received briefings on the talks - but are not authorized to talk about what they know on the record - confirmed Thursday there seems to be progress on key American demands about what goes into cars that enter the USA duty free under NAFTA.

Trump took a different tact, however, with Canada.

Trump slapped Canada and other allies with steel and aluminum duties, which led to retaliatory levies from Ottawa. "Will tax cars if we can't make a deal!" he said.

"It benefits the United States to continue being a major ally of Mexico, as a neighbor and as a regional economy, which combined makes us the most powerful in the world", he said.

If the US and Mexico can resolve their bilateral differences in the coming days, the source said it's "very possible" Canada's team - potentially including Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland - could rejoin negotiations later in the week. He described the newly elected Mexican president as "an absolute gentleman".

"We are very positive about closing the deal", Cervantes added.

Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso and Jesus Seade Kuri, an adviser to Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, met for two hours later in the morning with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Asked about progress on autos rules of origin, he said: "Nothing is close until everything is close, but there are items in every element that is being discussed".

To complicate matters, the already rocky Canada-U.S. relationship has deteriorated since the partners suspended talks in the spring. -Mexican issues were resolved, Canada could rejoin the talks to work on tri-lateral issues.

"It's trade negotiating's summer performance of Groundhog Day", he said, "another day of guessing when terms that don't change will include guests that aren't there".

Flavio Volpe, head of the Canadian Automobile Parts Manufacturers Association, said the two countries are still haggling over the details of the USA proposal - that NAFTA automobiles have 75 per cent North American content and be made 40 to 45 per cent by workers earning at least $16 an hour - with little progress since May.

The U.S. and Mexico, which have been in bilateral negotiations for about three weeks, appear to be "getting close" to agreement over auto manufacturing, David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., said in an interview.

Trump demanded NAFTA be renegotiated after repeatedly criticizing the 24-year-old pact as a "terrible deal".

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