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Mexico will leave NAFTA talks if Trump triggers withdrawal process

In this April 21, 2008 file photo, national flags of the United States, Canada, and Mexico fly in the breeze in New Orleans.

Judi Bottoni/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mexico will leave the NAFTA negotiating table if U.S. President Donald Trump decides to trigger a 6-month process to withdraw from the trade pact, three Mexican sources with knowledge of the talks told Reuters on Wednesday.

Reuters reported earlier in the day that Canada was increasingly convinced that Trump would soon announce the United States intends to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), sending the Canadian and Mexican currencies lower and hurting stocks across the continent.

"I think it's indisputable that if Trump announces a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA, well at that moment the negotiations stop," said Raul Urteaga, head of international trade for Mexico's agriculture ministry.

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The two other sources, who are involved in the trade talks and asked not to be named, said that Mexico remains firm on its position to get up and leave from the negotiating table if Trump goes through with the move.

While a NAFTA termination letter would start the six-month exit clock ticking, the United States would not be legally bound to quit NAFTA once it expires. Washington could use the move as the ultimate sleight of hand as it seeks to gain leverage over Canada and Mexico in talks to update the 24-year-old trade pact.

Trump has long called the 1994 treaty a bad deal that hurts American workers. His negotiating team has set proposals that have alarmed their Canadian and Mexican counterparts.

Among the most divisive are plans to establish rules of origin for NAFTA goods that would set minimum levels of U.S. content for autos, a sunset clause that would terminate the trade deal if it is not renegotiated every five years, and ending the so-called Chapter 19 dispute mechanism.

Though observers in Canada and Mexico have become increasingly gloomy about the upcoming Jan. 23-28 Montreal round in recent weeks, some took heart from a recent speech made by Trump to farmers this week in which he held back from provocative comments about the trade deal.

Urteaga, who was a member of Mexico's original NAFTA negotiating team in the 1990s, said that Trump's speech was an "interesting signal."

"No news, means good news sometimes."

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The prime minister says his government has taken a 'firm' approach to NAFTA renegotiations, but Justin Trudeau wouldn’t directly reply to a letter by his predecessor, Stephen Harper, blasting the Liberals over the trade talks. The Canadian Press
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