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article imageMexican officials hail new NAFTA

By AFP     Oct 1, 2018 in Business

Mexican officials hailed a new North American trade accord Sunday as the US and Canada announced they had reached an agreement to keep a three-country deal and rename the 24-year-old NAFTA.

Canada had risked being frozen out of a US-Mexican deal to update the North American Free Trade Agreement reached in August, but 11th-hour talks between Ottawa and Washington finally yielded an agreement to keep all three members in the new version of the trade pact.

"It's a good night for Mexico, and for North America," tweeted Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.

Other top Mexican officials also welcomed the deal.

"We celebrate the trilateral agreement," Jesus Seade, who represented Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the talks, wrote on Twitter.

"The door has been closed on the region's trade fragmentation," he said, adding the deal "will give certainty and stability to Mexico's trade with its North American partners."

Mexico's chief NAFTA negotiator, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, tweeted that he had instructed his deputy, Juan Carlos Baker, to deliver the text of the new agreement to the Mexican Senate on Sunday night.

A press conference at the Senate was scheduled for late Sunday.

If the deal is ratified by the three countries' legislatures, their heads of state -- US President Donald Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico's outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto -- will sign it on November 30, reported Mexican TV network Televisa.

That is one day before Lopez Obrador, a leftist free-trade skeptic, takes office in Mexico.

Officials from all three countries had set his December 1 inauguration as a cutoff date, fearing the political uncertainty his arrival could add to the talks.

Lopez Obrador, whose transition team participated in the negotiations as observers, has however given his blessing to the new NAFTA -- which will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The three countries began renegotiating NAFTA more than a year ago at the behest of Trump, who savaged the deal as a presidential candidate and says it has been a "rip-off" for the United States that has cost the country manufacturing jobs.

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