Mexican Economic Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Wednesday that his country could reach agreement on a major trade deal with the European Union in the next two weeks.
The announcement is an apparent shot at the U.S., which has been pushing Mexico and Canada to agree to sweeping changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, demands that have largely stalled the talks to renegotiate the 1993 deal.
In effect, the minister was telling his U.S. counterparts that if the talks fall apart and President Trump follows through with earlier threats to pull the U.S. out of the deal, Mexico would be able to find other trading partners. The sixth round of talks regarding the deal are being held in Washington this week.
"There is a possibility, but not a guarantee" of an Mexico-European Union deal, Guajardo told Reuters during a World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. "That [deal] will depend on the technical discussions that the teams are having in Brussels to see if there are conditions to get the ministers together and close it out."
Guajardo said that they had talks set for next week in Brussels. He said the two sides had already reached agreements on issues such as e-commerce, but others such as agricultural policy, country of origin labeling and dispute settlement had yet to be ironed out. "There are few items left, but they are significant," he said.
The NAFTA renegotiations have been strained for several months. Canadian and Mexican officials rejected U.S. demands to change the rules for determining when a product can be labeled as "made in America" or "made in the U.S.A.," arguing that the changes would damage the auto industry, whose supply chain is spread throughout the continent, according to an official with knowledge of the talks. The administration also is pushing to add an end clause to NAFTA as well as to allow countries to opt out of its investment dispute settlement system, changes the trading partners also oppose.