President Donald Trump on Friday notified Congress that he wants to sign a trade agreement with Mexico, and potentially Canada in 90 days, the period legally required to review a deal, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. The neighbors emerged from talks Friday, the White House's deadline for Canada to join in on a deal the U.S. struck with Mexico earlier in the week, without resolving sticking points.
"The talks were constructive, and we made progress. Our officials are continuing to work toward agreement," Lighthizer said.
Trump has sought to revise the three-nation trade agreement, which he says has punished American workers since it went into effect more than 20 years ago. The president has used tariffs on Canadian and Mexican goods to bring the countries to the negotiating table and wants them to drop their own barriers on certain products.
The White House is on track to provide text of a deal to revise NAFTA to Congress within 30 days, and Trump would aim to sign it 60 days after that, senior administration officials said Friday. They believe the administration would comply with the conditions for so-called fast-track trade authority, which would allow a deal to get through Congress more easily, even if Canada does not join in the deal. Some lawmakers are worried that a bilateral deal would not pass legal muster, according to Reuters.
The president's private comments, reported earlier by the Toronto Star, threw more uncertainty into the negotiating process at the last minute. In remarks to Bloomberg News reporters Thursday that the president wanted to be off the record, Trump said he would not make compromises in trade talks. Trump said that he would not publicly state his positions because "it's going to be so insulting they're not going to be able to make a deal," according to the Star report.