Progress being made between Washington and Mexico City toward repealing US tariffs on steel means it is not the right time for Mexico to target new USA products in retaliation for the duties, a senior Mexican official said on Wednesday.
Canada, Mexico and a number of USA lawmakers view the lifting of the tariffs imposed previous year as a condition for ratification of the deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland came and went from Washington on Wednesday, shifting diplomatic gears and jetting to Havana on a day that saw early hope that the end of the Canada-U.S. tariff dispute was close fizzle in a puff of figurative smoke.
Following her meeting with Mr Lighthizer, she repeated the demand that the tariffs - 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum - be withdrawn before the implementing the revised deal known as the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
"We made the case as we have been doing for some time that the best outcome for both Canadians and Americans would be to lift those tariffs and to have free trade between our two countries who have this fantastic trading relationship in place", she told reporters after the meeting in Washington.
"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".
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Also, the Chinese government may choose to take measures against USA companies in China, with Apple being a prominent target. China called the move "bullying and extreme pressure" which "violates multilateral trade rules".
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United States lawmakers have likewise resisted bringing the new agreement to a vote while the tariffs remain in place for the US's northern and southern neighbors, traditionally major U.S. suppliers of steel and aluminum.
Mr Mnuchin said Wednesday this was likely to be worked out soon. He not provide any details about the potential agreement.
Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez on Tuesday said Mexico was "close to negotiating the lifting of tariffs". "It's not necessary because I think the top priority is to get a deal first".
Lighthizer was meeting on Wednesday afternoon with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss plans for lawmakers to vote on the agreement.
China responded in kind on Monday, raising duty rates on $60 billion in U.S. exports. "I wouldn't say I'm confident", Mnuchin added. "We're continuing discussions. There's still a lot of work to do".