WASHINGTON: The United States cares more about getting a good agreement than quickly concluding the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the US Treasury secretary said Sunday.
An informal deadline came and went this week for reaching an agreement in time for the Republican-controlled Congress to approve it before the November 6 midterm elections. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday there was still "wiggle room" in the legislative calendar, giving negotiators a couple more weeks. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, however, acknowledged that the sides, though working hard to get a deal, are still "far apart."
"The president is more determined to have a good deal than he is worried about any deadline," Mnuchin said on "Fox News Sunday."
"Whether we pass it in this Congress or pass it in a new Congress, the president is determined that we negotiate NAFTA," he added.
Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the trade agreement if a satisfactory deal cannot be reached. He blames NAFTA, which has molded trade between the United States, Mexico and Canada since 1994, for the loss of millions of US jobs and dislocations in the auto and other industries. Despite the lack of a breakthrough, Mnuchin said the administration was focused on getting an agreement.
"I can tell you I've been in contact with the finance ministers in both Canada and Mexico. President Trump and (Canadian Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau had a very good conversation.
"We are still far apart but we are working every day to renegotiate this agreement and that's what we are focused on," he said.
On Friday, Trudeau said he was "feeling positive" a deal would be reached, saying, "It's right down to the last conversations."
He described trade in automobiles and auto parts as the last major sticking point in the negotiations to revamp the trade agreement. The United States wants to increase the amount of American content in cars eligible to receive duty-free treatment.