Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland arrived in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, fresh off news that Washington and Mexico City had reached an “understanding” for a bilateral trade agreement.
CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.
“The fact that Mexico has taken some tough decisions for Mexico and agreed to compromises around labor really is positive for workers in higher wage countries,” Freeland told reporters outside the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington. “It’s positive for Canadian workers and positive for American workers.” Freeland also praised the agreement between Washington and Mexico City which mandates that 75 percent of a North American vehicles must be made in the U.S. or Mexico.
On Monday, Freeland spokesperson Adam Austen, said the minister had shortened a trip to Ukraine to head back to the United States. He said progress between Mexico and the United States was Ottawa’s requirement for a new NAFTA.
“We will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class. Canada’s signature is required,” said Austen.
Canada’s original demands for renewing the deal ranged from writing a new chapter on labor and environmental standards to chapters on rights protections for gender and Indigenous groups. Ottawa also wants to protect its dairy and poultry industries.
THE NATURE OF THE DEAL
U.S. President Donald Trump made it clear on Monday that he’s open to a set of bilateral trade agreements with Mexico and Canada instead of a trilateral agreement.
“I think NAFTA has a lot of bad connotations for the United States because it was a rip-off,” said Trump.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered additional clarity, in a CNBC interview, Tuesday morning.
“The president’s objective is to have deals with Mexico and have a deal with Canada. And if we could do it is one deal, we’ll do it as one deal. If we do it in two deals we’ll do it in two deals,” he said.
Mnuchin added that Ottawa should find a lot to like in the provisional understanding. In a separate interview at the White House on Tuesday, he told reporters, “This is a complicated agreement. There’s lots of things in here that are all new. I would think that Canada would be very much on board with…stronger intellectual property, stronger protections…modernizing the agreement.”
Trump has threatened a 25 percent tariff on Canadian-made automobiles, which include the American brands Ford and GM. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business, Tuesday, that if Ottawa doesn’t agree to the terms of the current deal, “they will have to be treated as a real outsider.”
PRESSURE ON OTTAWA
Ottawa is already getting domestic pressure to sign on to the new “understanding.”
The CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, Maryscott Greenwood, said she thinks Canada could be close to an agreement.
Greenwood told the U.S. business news channel, CNBC, “There is only a handful of tough issues left. Mexico is already there. I think we can get there this week, I really do.”
American manufacturers said they want Canada to stay in the trading zone.
“Because of the massive amount of movement of goods between the three countries and the integration of operations which make manufacturing in our country more competitive, it is imperative that a trilateral agreement be inked,” said Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers in a statement.
Key American lawmakers who focus on trade signaled that they would not pass a trade agreement without Canada.
“I urge the Administration to engage with Congress as it moves forward in negotiations with Canada, and I hope that Canada will come back to the table with new energy,” said Representative Dave Reichert of Washington state, chairman of the Congressional subcommittee on trade.
“A final agreement should include Canada,” Senator Orrin Hatch, Finance Committee Chairman in a statement said.
Trump administration officials plan to unveil the details of the U.S.-Mexico provisional agreement to the U.S. Congress by Friday, so lawmakers can put the “understanding” to a vote.
Trump has said as soon as Congress passes the new agreement, the existing NAFTA deal will be void.
Rafael Bernal discusses trade talks between the US, Mexico and Canada
CGTN’s Asieh Namdar spoke to Rafael Bernal about the likelihood of the U.S., Mexico and Canada finding common ground during trade talks. Bernal is a staff writer with the online news platform, The Hill.