By David Lawder and Sharay Angulo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has softened its contentious demand for a NAFTA "sunset clause," Mexico's incoming trade negotiator said on Saturday, potentially eliminating a key obstacle to reaching a deal next week to revamp the trade pact.
A few hours earlier, President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States could reach a "big Trade Agreement" with Mexico imminently.
Jesus Seade, designated chief negotiator of Mexico's next government, said the new U.S. position would allow a periodic review of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but without an automatic expiration unless renegotiated every five years.
"It's going to come out. It's no longer what the United States was putting first in any way," Seade told reporters outside the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
The United States and Mexico have been holding bilateral talks aimed at resolving differences in the NAFTA renegotiation. Canada is also part of the agreement.
Trump tweeted on Saturday morning that the United States' "relationship with Mexico is getting closer by the hour. Some really good people within both the new and old government, and all working closely together....A big Trade Agreement with Mexico could be happening soon!"
Asked about Trump's tweet, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo acknowledged some progress, but told reporters in Washington before beginning another day of talks that the two countries are "not there yet."
"Nothing is done until everything is truly done," he said. "Today will be an important day."
Trump prompted the NAFTA revamp more than a year ago, complaining the pact has benefited Mexico to the detriment of U.S. workers and manufacturing. He made renegotiating NAFTA one of his top campaign pledges.
Trump has threatened to withdraw from the pact if it is not reworked to the advantage of the United States.
The U.S.-Mexico talks for weeks focused on crafting new rules for the automotive industry, which Trump has put at the center of his drive to rework the 24-year-old deal he says has been a "disaster" for American workers.
Seade said the issue of auto sector rules is "basically resolved," although some aspects, including time frames, are still being discussed.
Seade also said on Saturday that a "correct focus" on NAFTA's energy chapter has already been substantially agreed.
Since Mexico's July 1 presidential election, the Mexico-U.S. talks have been complicated by divisions between the incoming and outgoing Mexican administrations over energy policy.
The team of leftist Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has resisted enshrining the 2013-14 opening of the oil and gas sector enacted by outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto in the new NAFTA, people close to the talks say.
Lopez Obrador opposed Pena Nieto's energy reform, and the issue is divisive within his own camp. Business-friendly aides back greater outside investment in the industry, while his more nationalist allies want the oil to remain in Mexican hands.
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati, David Lawder and Sharay Angulo in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
Updated Date: Aug 26, 2018 00:05 AM