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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images

Today marks the end of the seventh round of NAFTA talks, with just 3 of 30 chapters (negotiation topics) closed this round.

Where things stand: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says that time might be running out to get a NAFTA deal on the books, with elections coming up this year in all three countries. Most significantly, the campaign for Mexico’s July presidential election will kick off in a few weeks.

Where negotiations stand: One of the most controversial questions on the table, regarding auto manufacturing and rules of origin, has not been resolved. Only 6 chapters in total have been closed across the seven rounds of talks.

Bottom line: Negotiations could take a back-burner and be kicked to 2019. Or, as Trump has threatened, the U.S. could withdraw.

  • The political calculus: A ratification vote would need to go before Congress.
  • No deal in sight: Experts don’t think they will be able to finish negotiations by the end of the next round, coming this month in Washington, per Reuters.
  • Separate deals: Lighthizer said he would be willing to break the negotiations into separate bilateral negotiations, but that that would not be ideal.

How tariffs are playing: Trump today said if Canada and Mexico gave the U.S. a “fair” deal he would consider exempting them from steel and aluminum tariffs. But Canada and Mexico pushed back on this idea.

The tone at the close:

  • USTR Lighthizer: “We have not made the progress that many had hoped in this round.”
  • Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland: "Canada would view any trade restrictions on Canadian steel and aluminum as absolutely unacceptable.”
  • Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guahjardo said negotiations aren’t moving fast enough, per Reuters.

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.

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