By Anthony Harrup

MEXICO CITY -- President Enrique Peña Nieto said Wednesday that the clock was starting on a remaking of Nafta, with Mexico beginning a 90-day period to consult with its private sector and prepare a negotiating position, and expecting the U.S. to do the same.

The US did not confirm it was starting its own clock but Mexico said Wednesday it expects the U.S. will likewise begin its own 90 days of internal talks.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants to renegotiate the 23-year-old trade pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada to secure better terms for the U.S., which has an annual trade deficit with Mexico of around $60 billion.

Mexico's Economy and Foreign Relations ministries said their consultations will run simultaneously with those the U.S. government will conduct internally for its own preparations.

Mexico has shown willingness to review Nafta while defending its commitment to free trade and rejecting outright Mr. Trump's demands that Mexico pay for a wall the U.S. plans to build along the border to stop illegal immigration.

The Mexican ministries said the talks in Mexico will be coordinated by the Economy Ministry and include the participation of its Senate.

"The consultation process in indispensable to achieve a modernization of Nafta that looks after the national interest, as is being done with the trade agreement between Mexico and the European Union," they said.

Mexico has free-trade agreements with more than 40 countries, including the European Union and Japan, although most of its trade is with the U.S., which receives around 80% of Mexican exports.

Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and the European commissioner for trade, Cecilia Malmstrom, agreed Wednesday to accelerate negotiations to update the Mexico-EU trade agreement, which went into effect in 2000, the Economy Ministry said.

"We have seen with some concern the current rise in protectionism around the world," the ministry said, adding that the two agreed to "defend the principle of open and global cooperation." Those negotiations are expected to be completed this year.

Trade between Mexico and the EU more than tripled between 1999 and 2015 to $62 billion, the ministry added.

Write to Anthony Harrup at anthony.harrup@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 01, 2017 19:08 ET (00:08 GMT)

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