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US, Mexico trade agreement does not address metals tariffs: minister

Pittsburgh — The preliminary trade agreement reached by the US and Mexico will not remove the US' existing Section 232 tariffs on Mexican exports of steel and aluminum in its current state, Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo said Monday.

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"We spoke with [US Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer about eventually discussing this topic. Mexico and Canada's interest are that if we arrived at a safe port with the signing of an agreement before the end of the year by November, that we will solve this contentious issue," Guajardo said in a webcast media briefing from Washington.

"We are still stranded on this issue ... but we don't discard the possibility in the horizon, closer to the signing, that we retake this dialogue to find a solution," Guajardo said.

US President Donald Trump on Monday announced that the US and Mexico have reached a bilateral trade deal that he referred to as the "United States Mexico Trade Agreement," as he said there are negative connotations in the US associated with "NAFTA." A final agreement is expected to be signed in November.

Trump said the US will negotiate with Canada to see if they can get the country to join the deal with Mexico, or to agree to a separate bilateral trade agreement with the US.

It is unclear what impact the agreement with Mexico could have on metals markets as it is still in its early stages and it remains to be seen what will happen with Canada, a US-based steel trader said.

"Let's see what happens with Canada over the next few days. To me, that is the big takeaway," the trader said. "I can't imagine much happening until everyone is on board and the process can be formalized a bit more."

Some details of the agreement with Mexico have been released, including new rules of origin and origin procedures, a topic the steel industry was hoping would be addressed in a renegotiated NAFTA.

"We appreciate the administration's hard work in reaching the bilateral understanding with Mexico announced today," American Iron and Steel Institute CEO Thomas Gibson said in a statement.

"In particular, we support strengthened rules of origin for autos that will further incentivize the use of North American steel in automobile production throughout North America," Gibson said.

"Today's announcement by the United States and Mexico is an important first step toward ensuring continued robust intra-NAFTA trade and investment, but it is now critical that Canada be included in the negotiations and that a new trilateral agreement be reached to update and modernize the NAFTA," he added.

--Justine Coyne, justine.coyne@spglobal.com

--Daniel Rodriguez, newsdesk@spglobal.com --Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@spglobal.com