Trump Focused on Good Nafta Deal, Not Deadlines, Mnuchin Says

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is still far apart from Mexico and Canada on a revised Nafta accord, and President Donald Trump is more focused on reaching a good deal than an immediate one, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Trump Focused on Good Nafta Deal, Not Deadlines, Mnuchin Says

“So whether we pass it in this Congress or we pass it in the new Congress, the president is determined that we renegotiate Nafta,” Mnuchin said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s something we’re doing.”

His comments are the latest in a series of high-level volleys about the state of talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement that began in August. The parties have roughly two weeks left to reach a deal that could pass this Congress, which had been U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s goal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday there was a good Nafta deal on the table already, with Lighthizer responding hours later to say the governments were “nowhere near close to a deal.” Kevin Brady, Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Friday in a statement that he hoped talks continue in good faith “whether that means a vote in Congress this year or next.”

Mnuchin’s comments are the latest to suggest the door has opened for talks to stretch past Mexican elections on July 1, though he raised the prospect of unspecified alternatives the president could take. Trump has regularly threatened to quit the current Nafta pact if a deal can’t be reached to update it.

“I’m not saying he’s willing to let it spill over, he has all his alternatives, I’m just saying right now we are focused on negotiating a good deal and we’re not focused on specific deadlines,” Mnuchin said on Fox. “We’re still far apart but we’re working everyday to renegotiate this agreement.”

Trump Focused on Good Nafta Deal, Not Deadlines, Mnuchin Says

Mexico’s chief Nafta negotiator, Kenneth Smith Ramos, said Saturday that the countries have agreed on nine of about 30 chapters of an agreement. “The last mile will require flexibility from all 3 Parties in order to find the balances that may allow us to close the negotiation,” he wrote.

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