July 24, 2018 / 1:48 PM / a year ago

Mexico trade adviser sees NAFTA deal in next few months

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada ought to be concluded in the next few months, a top adviser in the incoming Mexican administration said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Jesus Seade, Lopez Obrador's chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), speaks during a interview in Mexico City, Mexico July 2, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Jesus Seade, the designated NAFTA negotiator of president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said while some contentious issues still had to be resolved, he believed it was almost “inevitable” a deal would be reached.

“What I see ... to be a very feasible expectation is that we’ll be concluding the negotiation in the next two months if possible, or in the next few months a bit further down the road,” Seade told Mexican radio.

Seade and Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo will later this week travel to Washington to revive NAFTA talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Negotiations to reshape the 1994 trade accord were launched last August at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump, who blames NAFTA for the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, and argues the deal has caused jobs to move south of the border.

The talks had moved slowly and stalled in the run-up to the July 1 presidential election in Mexico, which yielded a landslide victory for veteran leftist Lopez Obrador.

The three countries have been at odds over U.S. demands to impose tougher content rules for the auto industry, as well as other contentious U.S. proposals, including one that would kill NAFTA after five years if it is not renegotiated.

Seade, a former deputy director-general of the World Trade Organization, said he had a “very good relationship” with Lighthizer, referring to him as a “friend” he had known for years, which should help them find common ground.

The positive comments come after Trump spoke warmly of Lopez Obrador on Monday, saying he expected to get “something worked out” on NAFTA.

Seade said Mexico was paying close attention to Trump.

“President Trump has a very personal style. He likes to appear chaotic. But the last thing he is is chaotic,” he said. “I think he’s a very intelligent man.”

Trump has also talked about pursuing a bilateral trade deal with Mexico, but Seade said he believed this was a negotiating tactic and would not come to pass.

“It would cause a lot of legislative commotion, a horrific debate for a year, which would cost him a lot politically,” Seade said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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