Mexico says close to U.S. metals tariff deal, waiting for Canada

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Mnuchin sees progress on steel tariffs with Mexico, Canada

"US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a Senate Committee yesterday that "the president has instructed us to try to figure out a solution" on steel and aluminum tariffs".

The steep U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum that Washington imposed last year on national security grounds have become a major stumbling block on the road to ratifying a new North American trade pact that the three countries negotiated last year.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was scheduled to meet with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in Washington later on Wednesday to discuss the metals tariffs and other issues related to the U.S. -Mexico Canada Agreement.

Mr Mnuchin said Wednesday this was likely to be worked out soon. That would be workable for Canada and Mexico, who have both opposed quotas.

President Donald Trump imposed the tariffs during contentious continental trade talks by using a section of US law that allows the president to tax imports on national-security grounds.

"I think we had a constructive meeting with the vice premier", Mnuchin told lawmakers Wednesday, referring to last week's brief meetings with Chinese trade envoy Liu He. And, "this is a very important part of passing USMCA which is a very important economic agreement for two of our largest trading partners..."

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a telephone call with US Vice President Mike Pence also "stressed the importance of their removal" while exchanging views on USMCA ratification.

Both Canada and Mexico are expected in the coming weeks to top up their respective retaliatory tariffs.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican officials on Tuesday called for the United States to lift steel and aluminum tariffs in order to create "true free trade" on the continent.

USA officials have insisted they will only lift the tariffs if Canada and Mexico accept quotas or other mechanisms that would avoid them becoming a conduit for cheap steel entering the US from other countries including China.

Asked about prospects for a deal later in the day, Freeland said she would not discuss Canada's negotiating strategy. I think that we are close to an understanding with Mexico and Canada.

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