Mexico Economic Minister confident an agreement is just around the corner.
It won’t happen, as initially hoped, in time for the leaders of the three countries to make an announcement at the Summit of the Americas in Peru later this week—and the unpredictability of Donald Trump could yet throw a spanner in the works—but Mexico Economic Minister Ildefonso Guajardo has said there is an “80% chance” of a finalized North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by the end of May.
The US, Mexico, and Canada have been locked in often tense negotiations over a NAFTA update since President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw from the pact if it could not be updated to the benefit of US interests early in his presidency.
The talks have touched on many areas of the three economies including manufacturing, agriculture, labor rights, and dispute resolution, with each country looking to avoid suffering losses and make gains.
Yet President Trump has repeatedly threatened to torpedo the talks. On the campaign trail he famously dubbed NAFTA, which came into effect in 1994, the “worst trade deal… maybe ever,” claiming it had hurt American workers.
On the contrary, many point to the many benefits the pact has brought the US economy, such as lower price for goods and a quadrupling in the size of trade among the three nations.
Yet with the US facing midterm elections in November—and Mexico headed for a presidential election in July in which leftist populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the current frontrunner—all three governments have been keen to wrap up an agreement quickly.
“I would tell you there is a high probability of 80 per cent,” Economic Minister Guajardo told Mexican television this week. “It will depend a lot on flexibility.”
Guajardo said negotiators from all three countries are speaking constantly in a bid to wrap up the deal, adding it will become clear by the beginning of May whether an agreement in principle is possible this spring, or whether negotiations will languish until 2019.
Each country’s legislature must ratify any changes to the deal.
In a guarded reference to Trump, Guajardo added that “absolutely nothing is guaranteed” in the current political environment.