NAFTA: Negotiators discuss whether to keep pushing for deal through weekend

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WASHINGTON — NAFTA negotiators are entering a day of meetings beset by uncertainty, with numerous question marks lingering over the three-country effort to reach some sort of agreement within days.

On their way into the talks, the lead ministers for Mexico and Canada said Friday they are not sure whether they will remain in Washington through the weekend.

“We’ll see,” said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo. “It depends.”

Guajardo suggested negotiating teams would remain in Washington for the second consecutive weekend, pushing the current marathon round into its third week. But it’s unclear whether the ministers will remain.

There’s some pressure to get something announced by Tuesday.

That’s when U.S. steel and tariffs kick in and U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer is expected to head to China. The deadline for presenting a deal to the U.S. Congress and getting it voted on this year is also looming large.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Guajardo both reject the idea of deadline pressure and the logic of their countries being threatened with tariffs.

They say a deal will happen when it’s good for all three countries and right now there are still a number of outstanding issues as the countries have focused primarily on autos.

“(Autos is) very much where our principal attention has been,” Freeland said. “We have made good progress.”

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

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