Mexican and Canadian officials today appeared to brush off the passage of an informal deadline set by the US Congress to reach a deal on revamping a continent-wide trade pact.
Paul Ryan, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, likewise said there was "wiggle room" as today appeared to come and go with no finalised draft agreement -- even though he had previously said American lawmakers needed to have any proposed tri-nation deal by May 17 to have time to vote on it.
His words helped send an indecisive Wall Street lower. Trade worries have added to fears that the bull market in US stocks since Trump's election may have come to an end.
The talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have been hung up on US demands to increase American content in cars that receive duty free treatment in the trade bloc, and to have a sunset provision, which would require the three governments to renew the treaty after five years.
The political calendar has imposed tight deadlines. Mexico is due to hold presidential elections in July, making authorities there even less willing to appear to have conceded to Washington's demands.
Likewise, November's mid-term legislative elections are also bearing down in the United States, leaving lawmakers in the majority Republican party with little bandwidth to absorb a deal as they fight to hold on to power.
In Mexico, officials today downplayed the importance of Ryan's deadline.
"Today is definitely not a do-or-die date. The process is continuing, the technical teams from all three countries are working," said Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. His remarks echoed those made by Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.
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