Mexico, US officials meet as Nafta talks seen starting later this year

Mexico’s economy minister Ildefonso Guajardo is meeting his counterpart Wilbur Ross in Washington, one day after the US commerce secretary said full-scale negotiations on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement would not get underway until late this year.

Mr Ross told Bloomberg that it probably will be “the latter part of this year before real negotiations get under way” and he hoped they would not take “substantially longer than a year”, writes Jude Webber in Mexico City.

That time frame is troublesome for Mexico, which wants to dispel uncertainty since that is likely to translate to a delay in investments until the outlook becomes clearer. Luis Videgaray, the foreign minister, wants the talks wrapped up this year.

There is also a practical reason. Mexico holds presidential elections in July 2018, which clashes with Mr Ross’ timetable.

Mr Videgaray himself held talks in Washington with White House officials, including Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. He also met Herbert McMaster, national security adviser, and economic adviser Gary Cohn.

The flurry of diplomatic meetings comes after Mr Guajardo — a member of the team that negotiated Nafta — travelled to Detroit last week to meet car executives and talk up Mexico’s place in integrated cross-border supply chains that ensure competitively priced cars in the US.

Earlier this week, Mr Videgaray expressed his “grave concern” to Washington over a proposal mooted by homeland security secretary John Kelly that seeks to deter migrants by separating children from their parents on detention at the US border.

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