President Donald Trump has said he was in "no rush" to complete a deal to rewrite the trade pact with Mexico and Canada.
As Mexican officials were gathered in Washington for talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Trump said at a cabinet meeting, "if you can't make the right deal, don't make it."
Negotiators have been working for four straight weeks to hammer out differences with Mexico, largely over provisions affecting the auto industry as they try to update the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, and sign a revised deal before the end of the year.
But Trump said yesterday, "I'm in no rush. We want to make the right deal. NAFTA has been a disaster for our country," he said.
"So we're going either going to do a good NAFTA -- a fair NAFTA for us -- or we're not doing NAFTA at all."
And Trump again aimed a jibe at Canada, saying "Their tariffs are too high. Their barriers are too strong. So we're not even talking to them right now."
Trade negotiators have sounded optimistic in recent weeks. Lighthizer told Trump, "I'm hopeful that in the next several days we'll have a breakthrough. There's still some difficult issues to work on. "
And he indicated Canada could rejoin the talks soon.
"I'm hopeful with Mexico. And then I hope once we get one with Mexico, that Canada will come along."
Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo has been leading the delegation, and said Canada would rejoin the talks once the issues more relevant to his country had been worked out.
Guajardo has stressed that the most difficult issues had been left to the end, including the US demand that NAFTA be approved every five years, a provision known as a sunset clause.
US officials have indicated that if the deal can be agreed by the end of August it would be possible to win congressional approval for the new NAFTA before Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office December 1.
That also would put the deal in place before the new US Congress is seated in January, which would protect it from the possibility of opposition if Democrats win control of the legislature in the November mid-term elections.