Mexican trade official says NAFTA deal with US may be hours away

Mexican trade official says NAFTA deal with US may be hours away
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U.S. and Mexican trade officials on Wednesday could strike a deal on updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to news reports. 

Mexico and the United States have been in talks over the past few weeks without Canada, the third country in the deal, trying to solve major issues on autos and investment disputes. 

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“We hope that we’ll have a solution in the next couple of hours, or the next couple of days,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters before meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE on NAFTA, Reuters reported.

Despite the growing optimism around a deal, Lighthizer's office cautioned that significant issues remain and there is no agreement yet.

There has been talk that the White House will make a "handshake" agreement on Thursday but that the day was fluid based on how far U.S. and Mexican negotiators get on Wednesday.

Negotiations to update the nearly 25-year-old agreement have been ongoing for more than a year without resolution.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE, who has said he wants a reworked deal that favors the U.S., recently said he was more focused on a strong agreement and wasn't worried about a timeline.

He has complained about trade deficits with Mexico and Canada, which he says amounts to unfair treatment of the United States. 

A deal completed any later than this month would push a vote on a new NAFTA to the next Congress, one that is likely to look much different than the current one.

Although progress has been made on autos, there are still questions surround the push by the U.S. for a five-year sunset clause, which Canada and Mexico worry will inject uncertainty into the future of the deal and hamper investment. 

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Wednesday that she is "very encouraged" by what she is hearing from the U.S. and Mexico.

Freeland said that once the U.S. and Mexico have reached a deal on their talks, "Canada is looking forward to rejoining the negotiations" and quickly wrapping up work on the NAFTA deal.