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

US and Mexican negotiators will resume talks next week on the update of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Friday.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray (L) and Economy Minister Idelfonso Guajardo leave the United States Trade Representative office building after meeting with US officials in Washington on August 10, 2018
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray (L) and Economy Minister Idelfonso Guajardo leave the United States Trade Representative office building after meeting with US officials in Washington on August 10, 2018 (AFP)

US and Mexican negotiators will resume talks next week on the update of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Friday.

At the close of the third consecutive week of discussions in Washington, Guajardo said a deal was still possible by the end of the month.

However, he acknowledged: "We still have a lot of work to do."

Guajardo stressed that the most difficult issues had been left to the end, including the US demand that NAFTA be approved every five years, a provision known as a sunset clause.

"We are working like we've been doing for the last three weeks and making a lot of advancements. We are coming back next week," he told reporters.

"But as I said before: nothing is closed until everything is closed."

US President Donald Trump tweeted that a "deal with Mexico is coming along nicely," emphasizing that "autoworkers and farmers must be taken care of or there will be no deal."

"New President of Mexico has been an absolute gentleman," he said, referring to leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, set to take over later this year.

But he reiterated his threat that tariffs on auto imports could be in store for the US neighbor to the north: "Canada must wait. Their Tariffs and Trade Barriers are far too high. Will tax cars if we can't make a deal!"

Canada's foreign minister recently said the country is ready to resume NAFTA talks "as quickly and intensively as possible."

US and Mexican officials will continue to work on bilateral issues before their Canadian counterparts rejoin the discussions on modernizing the 24-year-old trade deal, Guajardo said Friday.

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

Officials now are rushing to conclude the talks before Mexico's Lopez Obrador takes office on December 1.