Mexico Lays Out Faster Nafta Deal Timeline Than U.S. Signals

Mexico’s chief diplomat said that the nation hopes formal talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement will begin at mid-year and wrap up by December, projecting a more ambitious timetable than the one suggested by Donald Trump’s top commerce official.

Based on conversations with the White House, Mexico is looking to start formal Nafta talks in late June or early July, spend several months working and complete them toward year end, Foreign Relations Minister Luis Videgaray said in Washington after meetings with Trump advisers Thursday. On Wednesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that the trade talks will probably begin in the latter part of 2017 and that he hopes they won’t last much longer than a year.

If Nafta talks follow the scenario suggested by Ross, uncertainty over the agreement’s fate will likely hang over the July 2018 presidential election in Mexico, which could fuel economic concern, particularly if it seems the agreement will fall apart. The ruling party of President Enrique Pena Nieto and Videgaray is likely to face pressure and criticism from populist opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has led potential rivals in early polls. Mexican law prevents Pena Nieto from running for re-election.

“I want to be precise, and this is based on the conversations that we’ve had today in the White House: Each of the two countries are carrying out their own processes to be in conditions to start the formal trade…