MEXICO CITY – The chances for a successful and quick outcome to the process of modernizing the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement have declined after the launching of a trade war by the United States, Mexico’s powerful CCE business council said on Tuesday.
Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo on May 25 placed at 40 percent the chances of concluding the NAFTA talks with the US and Canada before the July 1 Mexican presidential election, and put them at 80 percent before the end of the year.
“Without a doubt, this percentage has fallen a bit, although it will depend on the flexibility of the US government, which today is not showing great flexibility,” Moises Kalach, the head of the CCE’s office on international negotiations, said at a press conference.
He said that the negotiators have to be prepared if “a new window of opportunity” opens, while noting limitations like the Mexican presidential ballot and the US mid-term congressional elections in November.
He said that the CCE, which has held more than 250 meetings in Washington with US federal officials, state governors and business leaders, has been “intensifying the strategy of lobbying.”
“We want the correct agreement. It doesn’t matter how difficult the road may be, we want the correct agreement and we’ll continue along that line,” he said.
He added that this is a “complex and difficult moment,” alluding to the imposition of tariffs by the US on Mexican steel and aluminum last week and Mexico’s response to implement “equivalent measures.”
The Mexican tariffs, which entered into force on Tuesday, affect a broad group of products such as steel panels, pork products and apples.
At a discussion organized by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Kalach also urged that the NAFTA renegotiation take on a private character, rather than be pursued by the governments, especially now that elections are approaching, saying “We cannot leave (the talks) in the hands of the politician of the moment.”
At the same time, after Washington’s implementation of the tariffs, he said the Mexican government’s “firm” response was a positive development.