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Mexico sees basis for reasonable optimism on NAFTA

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray gives a speech during a news conference beside Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (not pictured) in Mexico City, Mexico February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said on Thursday that there was basis to be reasonably optimistic about the survival of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Asked on local television whether it was more likely the $1.2 trillion (£854 billion) trilateral trade pact would survive or die, Videgaray said there were reasons to be reasonably optimistic, but that Mexico should be prepared for all eventualities.

"We should be prepared for a future with or without NAFTA," he said.

The three countries are renegotiating the 1994 pact, but talks have stalled as Canada and Mexico are at loggerheads with the United States over some of the most contentious proposals its negotiators have put on the table.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called NAFTA one of the worst deals in history and has often threatened to quit the agreement unless he can rework it to better benefit American workers and interests. He blames the pact for U.S. manufacturing job losses and his remarks about quitting have unsettled financial markets.

At the last round in Montreal, Canada made a number of proposals to address the U.S. insistence that the North American content of autos be raised. Washington also wants a clause that would allow any NAFTA member to pull out after five years.

The seventh round of NAFTA talks is now scheduled to start and end one day earlier than initially planned, and will run from Feb. 25 to March 5 in Mexico City, said the economy ministry.

The early March deadline for wrapping up the talks has been extended to at least early April, officials have said. But participants have said privately it could take months longer than that.

(Reporting by Christine Murray and Veronica Gomez; Editing by Andrew Hay and Jonathan Oatis)

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