Officials seek 'wiggle room' in NAFTA talks as USA deadline lapses

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Notably, these two agreements concern markets significantly larger than the United States (with both having total populations nearing the 500 million mark).

Kind said Lighthizer was "hopeful" that he could rebalance the trade agreement to ensure bipartisan support.

"It's right down to the last conversations", he said, adding that he is "feeling positive" about the chances the three nations will reach a deal but that "it won't be done until it's done".

Citing American trade law, Ryan had said May 17 was the last day to receive notice of intent to sign a deal for a new North American Free Trade Agreement that could be passed by the current Congress before a new crop of lawmakers change the political calculus.

All three countries agreed that they would keep negotiating beyond Thursday, a date that had been presented as a procedural deadline for getting a deal to the U.S. Congress for a vote this year. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's spokesman called the deadline a USA issue.

"We are close to a deal", the prime minister said in NY.

Chief Mexican NAFTA negotiator Kenneth Smith said that the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto had a responsibility to keep negotiating until Mexico's new president, who will be elected on July 1, takes office on December 1. Yet those talks have stalled over differences between the US and Mexico.

In Mexico, officials on Thursday downplayed the importance of Ryan's deadline.

"However, I would not rule out at any point, if the participants show the willingness, that we can settle this negotiation at any moment from the close of May onwards, or in June", the minister told Mexican radio. In any case, he said he was ready to keep negotiating: "We'll keep working until they shut off the lights". "Any renegotiated NAFTA that implies losses of existing Mexican jobs is unacceptable".

The Mexicans have been eager to finalize an accord before their presidential election, which is scheduled for July 1.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDem rep to launch discharge petition to force net neutrality vote in House GOP leaders huddle with discharge petition backers, opponents Trade experts, lawmakers say NAFTA deal within reach MORE said Thursday that while he needed the NAFTA deal on Capitol Hill soon there may be a few weeks of "wiggle room" for a deal to be considered by the current Congress.

USA trade chief Robert Lighthizer has expressed some frustration on Thursday, as reported by Reuters, as the US' self-imposed deadline for a deal on NAFTA has slipped by without anybody seeming to care, and the NAFTA renegotiations continue to drag on. However, the Canadian government does not appear to be in a rush for a deal to be reached.