NAFTA negotiations: Canada and Trump administration at impasse

01 October, 2018, 03:57 | Author: Edward Snyder
  • Justin trudeau

Relations between the two neighbors have been strained since Trump assailed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G-7 meeting in June, calling him "weak" and "dishonest". Some Democrats said they could not support a NAFTA trade deal without Canada.

The United States and Mexico Friday delayed the scheduled release of the text of a U.S. -Mexico trade deal with negotiators reporting progress on convincing Canada to join the accord before the expiration of an end-of-weekend deadline.

Garneau also dodged a question on whether Canadians would still support the administration's "no deal is better than a bad deal" approach if Mexico and the United States chose to move ahead without Canada. Canada is represented by a team of NAFTA negotiators led by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Canada also wants to keep a NAFTA dispute-resolution process that the US wants to jettison. "We're very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada".

A spokesperson for Trudeau told CTV News that "no meeting was requested".

A source close to the negotiations told The Canadian Press that the vast majority of the U.S. -Mexico text - more than 20 of its approximately 30 chapters - is not the least bit contentious for Canada.

And despite the fact that dairy remains a popular talking point for people like U.S. President Donald Trump and his trade ambassador, Robert Lighthizer, sources say it's no longer a hurdle, suggesting that those concessions have been agreed to on the American side.

Trump is under increasing pressure from U.S. business groups and some members of the U.S. Congress, who say excluding Canada from NAFTA would play havoc with the three member nations' increasingly integrated economies. He has moved quickly to finalize a trade deal with Mexico that makes no mention of Canada, shattering the notion of the "three amigos" pact that once governed free trade across the continent.

The U.S. -Mexico text will flesh out an agreement in principle that aims to rebalance automotive trade between the two countries and update NAFTA with new chapters on digital trade and stronger labor and environmental standards.




Earlier Sunday, one of Trump's senior trade advisers, Peter Navarro, told Fox News that Canada's positions on dairy sector regulations and on global dispute resolution remained among "several sticking points", but suggested that disagreements over digital intellectual property and certain pharmaceutical protections had been largely resolved. Canadian officials say they never requested a meeting.

The stalled trade negotiations - and Trump's comments - have renewed whispers of personal friction between Freeland and U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer.

'There is no fatal date, there is still time to reach a deal, ' he told a press conference earlier Friday.

Trump blames NAFTA for causing USA manufacturing jobs to move to low-wage Mexico and is demanding major changes.

Canadian and US negotiators are close to wrapping up a final NAFTA deal by early evening but the details may not be known until Monday.

He said there was a counter-proposal Friday from the United States.

But a Mexican source close to the talks said the United States had in turn agreed to drop a demand for tariffs to protect US seasonal produce growers. Canadian leaders have objected to Trump's decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel, citing national security.

Those changes are meant to encourage more auto production in the U.S. But such new labor rules may raise the costs of autos for consumers.

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