White House pushes preliminary NAFTA deal in Peru next week

15:08 | 04/04/2018 Cooperation

US President Donald Trump's administration is pushing for a preliminary NAFTA deal to be announced at a summit in Peru next week and will host cabinet ministers in Washington to attempt a breakthrough, Bloomberg reported on April 2, citing people familiar with the matter.

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The White House wants leaders from Mexico and Canada to join in unveiling broad outlines of an updated pact at the Summit of the Americas which begins on April 13, the report said. Technical talks to sort out the finer details and legal text could continue, according to the Bloomberg report.

Reuters could not immediately independently verify Bloomberg's reporting.

Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico's Economy minister will travel to Washington on April 4 for meetings with US Trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Mexican sources told Reuters.

The Bloomberg report said any meetings could include Jared Kushner and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who have been managing Trump's relationship with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

On April 5, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will arrive for her own meetings with Lighthizer and meetings on April 6 may include all three countries, Bloomberg said, citing its sources.

A White House spokeswoman, Natalie Strom, said of the talks in general on April 2 that Lighthizer remarked in March that time is running short to complete a new NAFTA deal.

"Negotiations are continuing on a daily basis with the goal of a successful and rapid conclusion, and the NAFTA countries will announce plans as warranted," Strom said.

Last week, Lighthizer expressed optimism that negotiations to modify NAFTA were making progress and that a deal in principle could be reached quickly.

The thorniest issues in the NAFTA talks with Mexico and Canada concern US demands on automotive trade and dispute settlement systems. Linking the future of the 24-year-old trade deal to Trump's border wall plan has never been among US negotiating objectives.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, asked in a CNBC interview on April 2 about the report and whether it was realistic to wrap up NAFTA in two weeks, said: "Well, the issue here, which the president understands keenly is that the Mexican elections are approaching and you're going to get to a certain point, just like you do in the American elections, where it becomes difficult to do meaningful policy changes. So I think whether it's two weeks or thirty days, it's got to be soon."

Theo NDO/Reuters