US softens stance on NAFTA sunset clause: Mexican official

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It's no longer what the United States was putting first in any way", Jesus Seade, designated chief negotiator of Mexico's next government, told reporters outside the U.S. Trade Representative's office.

A day earlier, President Donald Trump declared in a Twitter message that a resolution was near.

The president and his aides have hailed a renegotiated trade agreement with South Korea as one major victory. Juan Pablo Castanon, president of the CCE group that comprises some of Mexico's most influential industry associations, said Wednesday night that he expects key advances in the NAFTA talks in the next few days. NAFTA eliminates most trade barriers among the nations. He also backed Trump's suggestion that an agreement is not far off.

But Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said last week that Ottawa backed the idea of Washington and Mexico City hammering out differences before Canada resumed its participation.

Guajardo and Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray have been shuttling back and forth to Washington for more than a month for meetings with Lighthizer to try to iron out the bilateral stumbling blocks, including rules for the auto market, before the end of August. The U.S. has proposed tightening regional content requirements for auto production and having a certain percentage of a vehicle manufactured by higher-paid workers.

According to him, the US's "sunset" proposal - to require that the pact be reauthorized every five years - has been "taken out", with new alternatives under discussion.

The 64-year-old, who claims to bat above.300, said he wants to set up schools throughout Mexico to promote baseball in a country where soccer dominates.

Trump's trade team has employed a divide-and-conquer strategy in their attempts to renegotiate NAFTA, which they argue was responsible for "stealing" U.S. manufacturing jobs but which in fact has helped the USA auto sector prosper.

Trump has threatened to walk out of the pact in the absence of an agreement that is more favorable to US interests.

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One of the White House's goals going into the talks was to significantly increase the proportion of U.S. parts in the auto sector.

Mexico's own political calendar and looming presidential handover means the window for sealing a revised trade deal with the United States is closing quickly - negotiators have until September at the latest.

The threat of 25 per cent tariffs could discourage new automotive investment in Mexico to serve the US market.

Trump's relationship with Mexico has been strained over his push for it to pay for his border wall. "Some really good people within both the new and old government, and all working closely together", Trump wrote.

NAFTA has become a cornerstone of the Mexican economy since it went into effect January 1, 1994.

Mexico and the United States have said they are close to resolving remaining bilateral issues in the revamp of the trade pact.

Lopez Obrador, who will take office on December 1, took a break from his routine of meetings on Thursday and posted a video of himself on a baseball field, where took a turn at bat and connected solidly on about a half-dozen pitches.

However, disagreement remains over what penalties should exist in the event that automakers fail to meet the new higher requirements.

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