Mexico starts NAFTA clock: 90 days till negotiations

Mexico kicked off the countdown to trade negotiations with the Trump administration.

President Enrique Peña Nieto expects to start trade negotiations to reform NAFTA in May, after a 90-day consultation period with Mexican businesses.

“At the end of the 90 days, the negotiation will properly open to update our free trade agreement,” Peña Nieto said Wednesday at a press conference.

It’s the first sign of an official time table for talks on NAFTA, the free trade deal between United States, Mexico and Canada.

Peña Nieto also advocated for Mexicans to buy products “Hecho en Mexico” or “Made in Mexico” — a clear response to President Trump’s “America First” slogan.

Trump blames NAFTA for the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico. While nonpartisan congressional research found that not to be true, NAFTA has become a focal point for Trump.

“Anybody ever hear of NAFTA? I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. But we’re going to start renegotiating on NAFTA,” Trump said on his second full day in office.

White House National Trade Council director Peter Navarro did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the White House website, Trump will withdraw from NAFTA if the U.S. doesn’t get a better deal. Exactly what would make a better deal is unclear. Trump’s team has been slim on details.

Navarro has said during recent TV interviews that he would like “tighter rules of origin.” In NAFTA, a certain amount of parts in a product must come from one of the three countries. In cars, 62.5% of the parts must come from Mexico, Canada or the United States.

Experts say increasing that percentage could bring jobs back to the United States because some aspects of auto parts and assembly are only sourced in the U.S. The problem is, it would result in higher car prices.

Otherwise it’s unclear what Trump wants or how he plans to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

He is considering using a 20% tax on all goods imported from Mexico to pay for the border wall. While that would badly hurt Mexico’s economy, it would also mean that Americans, not Mexicans, would pay that tax on goods they buy

As for Peña Nieto’s announcement, it could signal what many experts have said: Mexico will have its own NAFTA demands for Trump.

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