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Don't expect a NAFTA deal at Lima Summit

April 9, 2018  

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Talks to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are not advanced enough for the United States, Mexico and Canada to announce a deal “in principle” at this month’s Summit of the Americas in Lima, two people familiar with matter told Reuters.

The ministers responsible for NAFTA met on Friday in Washington, and said progress had been made on reworking the accord.

But there was still too much to do unveil an agreement at the April 13-14 summit, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

U.S. President Donald Trump, his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are due to attend the Lima gathering, and officials have held out hope for substantive progress on the renegotiation before the meeting.

Spokespeople for the Mexican economy ministry and Canada’s foreign ministry declined to comment to Reuters. A spokeswoman for the office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Lighthizer has been pushing for the three sides to reach a deal in principle soon, and said in late March he believed it could be possible in the “next little bit.” However, Mexican and Canadian negotiators have been more cautious.

An agreement in principle could not be a partial deal, and would need to contain “everything defined in black and white” before it was reached, one of the sources said. It could not leave key issues open for discussion afterward, the source added.

If negotiations continue advancing, a deal might be possible by the end of April or early May, the source told Reuters.

Trump said on Thursday that the three countries were working “very hard” on NAFTA and that he expected to have “something… fairly soon.”