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United States pushing for NAFTA deal as Thursday deadline approaches

A New NAFTA Deal Doesn't Seem Close, Despite Deadline

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerMcConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE said that after nine months the United States, Mexico and Canada are still far from completing an update of the 24-year-old NAFTA deal with a slew of sticking points looming over the talks.

Lighthizer's doubts dashed hopes for a quick resolution after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier on Thursday in NY expressed optimism about reaching an agreement soon, while noting that differences remain. There's also concern over how the deal handles the auto industry.

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.

"The NAFTA countries are nowhere near close to a deal", Lighthizer said in a statement.

Since his presidential campaign, Trump has called the Nafta accord, which took effect in 1994, a "horrible" deal for the USA and threatened to withdraw if it could not be renegotiated. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's spokesman called the deadline a US issue.

Canada and Mexico expressed continued resistance Thursday to the US proposal for a so-called sunset clause that would kill NAFTA after five years unless all parties agree to extend it. Trudeau said the idea is still a sticking point, while Guajardo said it was out of the question.

Notwithstanding this, major sticking points remain - among the most prominent of which is the United States proposal for a five-year sunset clause whereby the renegotiated agreement would automatically terminate unless all three countries explicitly agree to renew it.

Ryan has said the deadline is just the cold reality of USA trade law.

House Speaker Paul Ryan warned a new Nafta deal had to be completed by Thursday, but Donald Trump's trade chief told lawmakers he expects that deadline will not be met.

"We will reach a deal when the deal is a good one", he told Mexican TV network Televisa. In any case, he said he was ready to keep negotiating: "We'll keep working until they shut off the lights".

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seemed hopeful, saying Thursday that a deal was "on the table" with just a few more issues to be worked out.

Mexico will send part of its NAFTA team to Washington on Monday, and another contingent is already there, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Thursday. "But a clarification is necessary: any renegotiated NAFTA that implies losses of existing Mexican jobs is unacceptable", he said.

Some in the Canadian government have mused about the potential strategic benefits of dragging out the talks.