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NAFTA negotiation may start in May: Mexico

Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villareal said the Trump administration is expected to notify the US Congress this week of its intention to renegotiate NAFTA

Mexico's government expects negotiations to modify the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and the United States, one of US President Donald Trump's key demands, to begin in May.

The government said Wednesday it will launch a formal 90-day period of consultations with the private sector to "set the parameters that will guide the revision and deepening" of NAFTA.

The discussions will begin at the same time that the US government starts its own consultations, the foreign and economy ministries said in a joint statement said.

"The consultation process is indispensible to achieve a modernization of NAFTA that meets national interests," it said.

Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who was in Washington last week for talks with US officials, said the Trump administration is expected to notify the US Congress this week of its intention to renegotiate NAFTA.

Negotiations "would start in early May," Guajardo told the Televisa network late Tuesday.

Using a metaphor, he said that by then the Mexican government would need to have a "flight plan to have safe landing strips."

Trump has vowed to renegotiate the 23-year-old pact, calling it a bad deal that has left the United States with a $60 billion trade deficit with Mexico.

The US leader says he will pull out of NAFTA if he does not get a good deal, a threat that the Mexican government has matched.

Bilateral trade amounts to half a trillion dollars per year, with 80 percent of Mexican exports going to the United States.