President Donald Trump's chief NAFTA negotiator said the U.S., Canada and Mexico are "nowhere near close to a deal" to update the region's 24-year-old free-trade pact as U.S. lawmakers warn that time is nearly up to reach a agreement that can pass the current Congress.
Lighthizer's doubts dashed hopes for a quick resolution after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier on Thursday in NY expressed optimism about reaching an agreement soon, while noting that differences remain.
Officials from both countries met on Thursday for the first of two days of scheduled talks on a range of issues related to immigration. The three cabinet-level officials have been leading the talks.
Politico says divisions among negotiators from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada on hard issues are driving a stake through the heart of President Donald Trump's goal of signing a new agreement into law this year.
Without a deal on the table, action likely shifts to the next Congress. "I don't know", Ryan said.
Trump on Thursday lashed out at China and Europe, calling them "spoiled" and casting doubt on the chances of a deal with Beijing even as Chinese negotiators were in Washington for talks.
Earlier in the day, David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the United States, told reporters that the three nations were edging closer to a deal.
With attention focused on the contentious issues of cars, Trudeau said that Mexico had made proposals that "will go a long way towards reducing the trade deficit the USA has with Mexico and indeed even bringing back some auto jobs from Mexico to the United States".
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"There's still some tough issues, but do we really want to kick this down the road and miss the opportunity to do a lot of the good work?", MacNaughton said.
Notwithstanding this, major sticking points remain - among the most prominent of which is the U.S. proposal for a five-year sunset clause whereby the renegotiated agreement would automatically terminate unless all three countries explicitly agree to renew it.
The "skinny NAFTA", Ujczo says, would fall in line with the "do no harm" pleas by US agriculture, but he says not addressing key issues gives Democrats an advantage to say President Trump "did not fulfill his campaign promises to dairy farmers", and others.
"A clarification is necessary", Mexico's economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, tweeted.
He was likely referring to the auto agreement, which could cause job losses in his country.
"However, I would not rule out at any point, if the participants show the willingness, that we can settle this negotiation at any moment from the close of May onwards, or in June", the minister told Mexican radio.
"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.