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No NAFTA deal this week, no NAFTA deal this year, Congress warns

No NAFTA deal this week, no NAFTA deal this year, Congress warns

Mexico said Thursday there is no "do-or-die date" to conclude an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada, as an informal deadline set by the US Congress expired.


Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Ryan could probably find a way to postpone the deadline a few days if the countries were on the verge of an agreement, but that's not the case.

"He was not optimistic this was all going to get wrapped up in the next 24 hours, to be sure", said Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, the chairman emeritus of the New Democrat Coalition, referring to Lighthizer.

The U.S. political calendar matters because of the possibility that trade-skeptical Democrats will retake at least one chamber of Congress from trade-friendly Republicans in January. "He felt there was some back-sliding going on with Mexico, and Canada, to a certain extent", Kind added.

Kind said Lighthizer was "hopeful" that he can rebalance trade to ensure bipartisan support. USA negotiations with China are more hard and likely to take more time, he said.

Michael C. Camuñez, a former official in the United States Commerce Department, said Mr. Lighthizer was pressing last week for the three countries to come to a separate agreement on the auto industry.

Lighthizer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The development doesn't mean the Nafta talks are dead - they will continue, and the existing deal remains in force.

That's because Mexico elects a new president in July, the USA elects a new Congress in November, and several senior members of the current Congress are retiring regardless of what happens in the midterms.

Lighthizer is scheduled to attend meetings on Thursday and Friday with the Chinese vice premier, Liu He.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan had said he needed the written agreement by Thursday if the Congress was to approve NAFTA this year.

"An bad lot of things would have to go right in order for this to be voted on in this Congress", said Eric Miller, a Washington-based trade adviser and Woodrow Wilson Center fellow.

Ryan himself told reporters at the U.S. Capitol that Congress can not begin working on the negotiating law known as "fast track" without a trade deal in hand.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was due to travel to the USA capital later Thursday for internal meetings and talks with key stakeholders, said a spokesman.

Chief Mexican NAFTA negotiator Kenneth Smith said that the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto had a responsibility to keep negotiating until Mexico's new president, who will be elected on July 1, takes office on December 1.

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