WASHINGTON – Mexico’s economy secretary said on Friday his government is confident that negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will begin as soon as possible.
Ildefonso Guajardo commented during a joint press conference with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who stressed that by law, President Donald Trump’s administration must allow at least 90 days for consultations with Congress before launching formal talks.
“The next stage will be – hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks – issuing the 90-day (consultation) letter,” Ross said.
“That’s what triggers the beginnings of the formal process itself. We don’t have a date certain for that. We’ve been in discussion with the – Senate finance committee and the House ways and means committee,” the commerce secretary said.
Trump has criticized the 1994 pact linking the economies of the United States, Mexico, and Canada, calling it unfair to US workers and industries.
The Mexican government’s NAFTA consultation process is well under way, Guajardo said Friday.
“We’ll be ready by the end of May to start negotiations at any point. Therefore we will just be waiting for the US and Canada to finish their own ... process to kick off negotiations,” he said.
Ross, however, raised the possibility that the process will not involve three-sided negotiations.
“It will either be two parallel bilaterals, with symmetrical provisions. Or one new trilateral. We’re less concerned at this stage with the exact form than we are with trying to get to the substance,” he said.
Mexico has made it clear that it would prefer a trilateral approach to updating NAFTA.