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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s economy minister on Monday said he saw an 80 percent chance of a new NAFTA deal by the first week of May, and said in a TV interview that conditions were not right for reaching an agreement this week.

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Flags of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are seen before a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Ildefonso Guajardo said U.S. negotiators were under pressure to strike a new deal by the first week of May in order to give U.S. Congress members time to discuss a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), given that the makeup of both chambers will change after U.S. midterm elections in November.

“We’re weeks away,” Guajardo said. “We should know if we will be able to close this by the first week of May at the latest. ... There’s a very high probability, about 80 percent, that we reach an agreement in principle.”

Guajardo added that the eighth round of talks was now largely irrelevant.

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FILE PHOTO - Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer pose for a photo during a joint news conference on the closing of the seventh round of NAFTA talks in Mexico City, Mexico March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

“We’re in a type of permanent round,” he said. “The technical groups are working on areas like the automotive rules of origin.”

Negotiations to rework NAFTA began last year after President Donald Trump took office promising to take the United States out of the 1994 agreement if it could not be reworked to better serve American interests. Talks continue this week in Washington.

Reuters reported

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