U.S.'s Mnuchin: 'Significant' issues remain over NAFTA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday said major issues remained in talks between the United States, Mexico and Canada to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA).

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) is seen as he and a U.S. delegation for trade talks with China arrive at a hotel in Beijing, China May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

“There are still some very significant, open issues,” Mnuchin said in an interview on CNBC.

“We’ll see where we get over the next few weeks,” he said, adding that he thinks there is still a desire among the three countries to reach an agreement.

“We’re still trying to get a new deal done. That is a priority for the president,” Mnuchin told CNBC.

He added that Trump administration remained focused on crafting a new NAFTA deal that would require congressional approval, but that Trump could consider a possible so-called “skinny deal” that would not.

His comments come as talks to rework the 24-year-old trade accord have intensified in recent weeks.

Mnuchin has said that Trump is not focused on a specific deadline, but there are pressures given Mexico’s presidential election in July as well as congressional deadlines and U.S. midterm elections in November.

Mexico has said that the remaining issues are not complex. Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the countries were nowhere near a deal.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the Republican-controlled Congress would need to be notified of a new deal by last Thursday to give lawmakers a chance to approve it before a newly-elected Congress takes over in January.

However, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said there was still time to forge an agreement. “I don’t think the congressional timetable is quite as strict” as Ryan had indicated, he told CNBC.

“It’s not dead. It’s still cooking,” he said.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Nick Zieminski