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With US, Mexico close to NAFTA deal, Donald Trump to speak

Earlier today, a top Mexican official had told reporters a single issue remained to be resolved in US-Mexico talks, with Trump tweeting that "big deal" was at hand.

Published: 27th August 2018 11:26 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th August 2018 11:26 PM   |  A+A-

US President Donald Trump (Photo | AP)

By AFP

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump was due to make a trade announcement today as US and Mexican negotiators signalled they were zeroing in on a preliminary deal to rewrite the North American trade pact.

The news prompted ebullience on stock markets, sending Wall Street to fresh records.

Earlier today, a top Mexican official had told reporters a single issue remained to be resolved in US-Mexico talks, with Trump tweeting that "big deal" was at hand.

"A big deal looking good with Mexico!" Trump said.

The White House said Trump would make a trade announcement at 11:00 am ET (1500 GMT).

"We have one very important issue to finish," Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said, declining to elaborate.

"The idea is if we finish this item we will be concluded."

However, Guajardo once again stressed that efforts to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement would not be complete until a final agreement is reached with Canada.

He told reporters, "We are not going to disclose anything because a lot of these things imply Canada.

Until we finish with the position of Canada, we'll not be able to disclose all the elements."

The negotiations are aimed at ironing out bilateral issues and calling on Canada, the third NAFTA partner, to rejoin the now year-old discussions.

Guajardo and Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray have been shuttling back and forth to Washington for more than a month for meetings with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to try to iron out the bilateral stumbling blocks, including rules for the auto market, before the end of August.

Talks ground to a halt in May, in part due to the July 1 presidential elections in Mexico.

The trilateral treaty has been a key target in Trump's aggressive trade strategy and he has repeatedly threatened to scrap it altogether, branding it a "disaster".

But after a year of intense negotiations to salvage the 25-year-old pact, the United States and Mexico appear close to a point where Canada -- which had been waiting for US-Mexican agreement on auto industry rules -- can rejoin the talks.

US and Mexican negotiators are keen to seal a new deal before Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hands power to president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on December 1.

For that to happen, the US Congress must be notified 90 days in advance, which means the administration must send the notice by the end of the week.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland of Canada said earlier she was encouraged by the progress and would rejoin the talks once bilateral discussions concluded.

She currently is on a European trip, but Guajardo said last week Freeland had indicated she would be available as soon as the United States and Mexico were ready to move to the next phase.

A key element of the US-Mexico talks has been content requirements for autos, which Mexico reportedly agreed to increase to 75 per cent from North America to get duty free NAFTA treatment.

The sides also have reached agreement on the portion of cars made at "high wage" factories that can receive duty-free treatment, according to reports.

That requirement would deter US auto manufacturers from moving production to Mexico, where labour costs are lower, something central to Trump's attacks on NAFTA.

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