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NAFTA deal unlikely by May 17: Mexico

Ildefonso Guajardo

Mexico City, May 16 (UITV/IANS) - Negotiations to modernise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are unlikely to reach an accord in principle by May 17, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Tuesday.

The three NAFTA partners, Mexico, Canada and the US, continue to disagree on several issues, he said.

"The possibility that by Thursday we will have all of the negotiation (wrapped up) is not likely. We don't think it will happen by Thursday," Xinhua quoted Guajardo as saying .

May 17 loomed as a deadline for a preliminary agreement after Paul Ryan, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, last week said that for Congress to approve a revamped NAFTA, an agreement in principle had to be submitted by then.

Otherwise, Congress would not have enough time to debate and approve a new deal before legislative elections in November.

"The conditions are still not there at this time," affirmed Guajardo, who heads Mexico's negotiating team.

Among the issues the three sides have yet to agree on is a US proposal to include a so-called sunset clause that would allow the deal to automatically expire every five years, pending renewal. Neither Canada nor Mexico wants that.

However, the trio may be closer to agreeing on automotive rules of origin that place caps on the amount of foreign-made parts allowed in vehicles manufactured in North America, said Guajardo.

Washington wants less foreign-made parts and more US-made components, while Canada and Mexico want to preserve the existing limits.