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US expects to restart Nafta talks soon: commerce secretary

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Talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement could resume shortly, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.

[WASHINGTON] Talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement could resume shortly, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.

Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador "has changed his rhetoric quite considerably and has made it very clear that he likes the idea of redoing Nafta," Mr Ross said.

Prior to the elections there were concerns Lopez Obrador, a left-wing populist, would scrap the Nafta talks.

However, he has a team working with the current government on the trade negotiations and "we think those will get going quite quickly," Mr Ross said in an interview with CNBC.

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Carlos Urzua, tapped to be Mexico's next finance minister, said after the elections that the Nafta talks could accelerate after the US congressional elections in November.

US President Donald Trump repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the two-decade-old trade pact with Mexico and Canada, and last year demanded the deal be revised.

While officials rushed to reach an agreement before Mexico's July presidential election, the talks stalled over US demands, including the call for higher US content in all autos receiving duty-free treatment in the region.

Ottawa and Mexico also are at odds with Mr Trump over the steep import duties imposed on steel and aluminum, and have retaliated with punitive tariffs on US products.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will visit Mexico on July 26 to discuss Nafta with the Mexican President-elect, Mexico's Foreign Ministry announced Thursday.

During the working visit, Ms Freeland also will meet with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, along with her counterpart Luis Videgaray, as well as with Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

Ms Freeland will be joined by Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the new Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr.

At the beginning of July, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Lopez Obrador about the common desire to "update the North American Free Trade Agreement".

AFP