US to launch NAFTA renegotiation process coming weeks: Ross

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks to reporters after discussing the NAFTA treaty with Mexico's Economy Minister Idelfonso Guajardo Villarreal

The Trump administration will launch the formal process to renegotiate the US trade agreement with Mexico and Canada "in the next couple of weeks," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday.

Before reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement -- which President Donald Trump has slammed as a bad deal for the United States -- or entering any trade negotiation, the White House must give Congress 90 day's notice, but there is no "date certain" to begin that formal process, Ross said.

In a joint press conference with Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Ross said he has been consulting with the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees on the coming NAFTA renegotiation.

"The next stage will be hopefully in the next couple of weeks which will be to issue 90-day letter," he said.

Guajardo said Mexico will be ready "by the end of May" and will then be waiting for the United States and Canada to complete their domestic legislative processes in order to start the talks.

Ross said it was "premature" to discuss the White House's exact negotiating points, but added that NAFTA is "a very old agreement."

NAFTA "doesn't deal with the Mexican economy or the US economy or the Canadian economy in their current form," he said.

"At a minimum its needs an update. Arguably there were some sections that didn't work out."

Although NAFTA is a three-country agreement, Ross said the negotiations could be conducted with each country separately, as "two parallel bilaterals."

Administration officials repeatedly have said they favor bilateral agreements over multilateral deals, and one of Trump's first acts on taking office in late January was to pull out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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