April 6, 2018 / 3:22 AM / 8 months ago

NAFTA nations 'moving forward in significant way': Canada's Trudeau

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The United States, Mexico and Canada are “moving forward in a significant way” at talks to modernize the NAFTA trade pact, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, takes questions from the media following his meeting with Canadian coast guard workers aboard the Sir Wilfrid Laurier in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Light

Trudeau’s remarks to reporters in Quebec City were the latest in a series of upbeat comments by officials in the three countries about the chances of striking some kind of deal soon on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“I believe we’re in a moment where we’re moving forward in a significant way. Hopefully there will be some good news coming,” Trudeau said.

“We know these negotiations, there are good moments and there are slower moments. But right now we’re having a very productive moment of engaging with the United States and Mexico,” he added.

Mexican officials say that with enough progress, the leaders of the three nations could make an announcement at a regional summit in Peru next week.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is pressing for a deal in principle to avoid clashing with Mexican presidential elections on July 1.

Any such agreement would likely tackle a main issue of autos content while leaving other contentious chapters to be dealt with later, officials say.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will hold talks in Washington on Friday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, said a Canadian government source.

Freeland said on Wednesday that there was still work to do before the talks could be wrapped up.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Thursday criticized Trump’s plan to send National Guard troops to the border.

But Moises Kalach, head of the international negotiating arm of Mexico’s CCE business lobby, insisted NAFTA negotiators are not entering into that debate.

“We are staying away from those things,” he said on local radio.

Uncertainty over the future of the $1.2 trillion pact rattled markets earlier this year but that concern appears to be abating. Bank of Montreal is confident that the talks will result in a positive outcome, Chief Executive Darryl White said on Thursday.

That said, only six of the roughly 30 chapters have been closed and wide differences remain on topics such as dispute resolution and government procurement.

Canadian officials feel the three governments could produce “a symbolic agreement in principle that signaled they had reached a consensus on five or six key issues,” a source familiar with Canada’s negotiating position said on Wednesday.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; additional reporting by Matt Scuffham in Toronto and Julia Love in Mexico City; editing by Grant McCool

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