July 22, 2017 / 10:37 PM / 4 months ago

Mexico economy minister eyes multiple rounds of NAFTA talks

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - There could be between six to nine rounds of negotiations between the United States, Canada and Mexico in the event a quick deal is reached on a revamp of the North American Trade Agreement, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said.

Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo in Mexico City, Mexico June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Guajardo told reporters in Mexico City on Friday the NAFTA members were looking at avoiding gaps of more than three weeks between negotiating rounds with a view to making quick progress.

“If we calculate the times toward the end of the year, we’re saying that this would give us a universe of rounds that could be between six and nine rounds,” Guajardo said.

Reuters this week reported the three countries had agreed an aggressive timetable to broker a deal on NAFTA in order to avoid politicizing Mexico’s presidential election in July 2018, forecasting rounds held at three-week intervals.

The first round of talks on renegotiating NAFTA is due to begin in Washington on Aug. 16.

Two Mexican officials said the neighboring countries aimed to hold seven rounds of negotiations, and U.S. officials told Reuters that Mexico wanted the talks wrapped up by year-end 2017.

Guajardo noted that it was in the interests of the negotiators to wrap up talks in good time lest a new government take office in Mexico and refuse to honor the terms.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed for a renegotiation of NAFTA, threatening to dump it if he cannot rework the accord to the benefit of the United States. He argues it has fueled a trade deficit with Mexico and cost thousands of U.S. jobs.

Writing by Dave Graham, editing by G Crosse

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