Mexico Business Leader Expects Good News on Nafta in Coming Days

(Bloomberg) -- The head of Mexico’s biggest business chamber expects key advances in Nafta talks with the U.S. in the next few days.

Juan Pablo Castanon, president of the CCE group that comprises some of Mexico’s most influential industry associations, said progress by the two countries should be enough to allow Canada to rejoin the talks soon. He spoke in a brief interview on Wednesday night after arriving in Washington to help the country’s negotiators. Along with him came Bosco de la Vega, head of Mexico’s agriculture chamber CNA, and Juan Gallardo, chairman of beverage maker Cultiba.

“We’re expecting good news,” Castanon said when asked if a breakthrough in negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico is imminent. “We’re expecting significant advances and for Canada to be able to return to the table.”

Castanon is Mexico’s most important business lobby figure, leading a chamber that includes groups of industries such as banking and manufacturing. He was one of the first people who Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met with following his July 1 election as Mexico’s next president.

August Deal

Mexico’s negotiating team has been in close contact with the private sector during the past year of Nafta talks. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo led a meeting with more than 120 representatives from the business community, called the “accompanying room,” on Aug. 7 in the Mexican capital. Negotiators have also regularly coordinated with business leaders on proposals including rules for car production and agriculture.

The U.S. and Mexico may resolve their bilateral Nafta issues as early as this week and both nations continue to push for a deal in August, Lopez Obrador’s chief Nafta negotiator Jesus Seade said after a five-hour meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Wednesday. Mexico’s Guajardo and Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray also participated in the talks.

Before that meeting, Guajardo had said that a final Nafta agreement will happen only when Canada rejoins the talks and the three nations resolve all of their issues. Politico reported Tuesday that President Donald Trump was poised to announce a handshake deal with Mexico as soon as Thursday, citing unidentified sources. A spokesperson for Lighthizer said that there’s no deal yet and major issues remain outstanding.

Any handshake agreement announced on bilateral issues between the U.S. and Mexico would be the biggest breakthrough in negotiations since they began a year ago. Yet certain U.S. demands that affect all three Nafta nations remain unresolved and could still be deal breakers.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.