( File photo )

Mexican trade officials told Reuters that a deal with Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement could be clinched Aug. 22. Some U.S. trade officials were less optimistic, telling media outlets that serious issues remained to be resolved.

“I think we are getting very close at this point,” said Richard Owen, vice president of global membership and engagement for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, said the morning of Aug. 22.

The White House cleared time in their schedule for a possible announcement on Aug. 23, he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one source close to the talks for Mexico said much remained to be accomplished in the talks — specifically relating to the sunset clause that would mandate a renegotiation every five years, and U.S. tariffs on Mexican steel and aluminum.

The U.S. had earlier considered removing the sunset clause in exchange for favorable terms for auto rules of origin, according to the source. However, U.S. trade officials then discussed offering a seasonality trade provision as a concession instead of the sunset clause.

Owen said it is still not clear if the U.S is intent on keeping the seasonal trade protection tool for specialty crops, which has been favored by Southeast U.S. growers.

Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, said the group continues to stress to the administration that the specialty crop sectors in Florida and the Southeast can’t survive without fair trade recourse against Mexico’s unfair dumping and subsidy practices.

“As Congress and the administration know, our industry has suffered more than most under the current NAFTA,” Lochridge said in an e-mail Aug. 20.

 
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