Canadian negotiators enter day two of trade talks after the U.S. and Mexico agreed to a preliminary deal on Monday that could change parts of the North American Free-Trade Agreement.
CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.
Canada’s top trade negotiator in the NAFTA talks, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland began negotiations on a positive note. “We are optimistic about having some very good, productive conversations this week,” she told reporters.
After a meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Freeland credited Mexico’s “compromises” on labor and wages in a bilateral deal with the U.S. which paved the way for more substantive talks between Canada and the U.S.
Speaking at a press conference in Ontario on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there is a chance to reach a NAFTA deal before the Friday deadline but doesn’t want a subpar proposal, “We recognize that there is a possibility of getting there by Friday, but it is only a possibility, because it will hinge on whether or not there is ultimately a good deal for Canada,” He added, “No NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal.
A top American union executive said that a revised NAFTA deal seems very promising and would benefit workers. President Trump “understands that enforcement is important,” Richard Trumpka, AFL-CIO President told NPR in an interview. “The Mexicans have a low-wage model, and they aid that by having employer-dominated unions. This agreement so far will help eliminate these employer-dominated unions. It will help us enforce this agreement on a regular and quick basis so that wages can rise in Mexico, Canada and the U.S. and everybody ultimately wins.”
But in a separate interview on Marketplace Morning Report, Chris Wilson of the Mexican Institute said tracking parts of a car to the individual worker will add additional difficulty for automakers. “This is not just about what country something is produced in at this point. This is specifically about what content was produced by which worker, which was paid at which level. That is a whole other level of complexity,” said Wilson.
Top American trade negotiator – Robert Lighthizer plans to notify the U.S. Congress of the Mexico deal on Friday. Outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto then has 90 days in which to sign the agreement before leaving office on December 1st. If he doesn’t sign it before that date, incoming Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would have an opportunity to restart negotiations.
White House officials have made it clear they want Canada to sign onto the existing agreement by Friday as well. “Our objective is to get Canada on board quickly,” Mnuchin told CNBC on Tuesday. “I don’t anticipate there is going to be a lot of sticking points.”
Yet, differences remain. In the past, Washington and Ottawa have battled over American allegations that Canada dumps subsidized lumber in the U.S. market and uses big tariffs to protect its dairy farmers. Trump has repeatedly complained about Canadian dairy tariffs which are as high as 300 percent. At the same time, he overlooks the triple-digit tariffs Washington imposes on tobacco and peanuts.
When asked if Ottawa could meet the Friday deadline set by Washington and Mexico City, Freeland told reporters, Wednesday, “You’re tempting me to say something Churchillian. You know, is it the end of the beginning, the beginning of the end? Look, let me just say a lot has been accomplished.”
According to Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, in order to approve the results of these negotiations, the U.S. Senate needs 51 votes to approve a three-party deal. It needs 60 votes to approve a bilateral pact.
Carlo Dade discusses ongoing US-Canada trade talks
Canadian and American officials are voicing optimism over trade talks between the U.S. and Canada taking place in Washington. The White House has set a Friday deadline for reaching a deal, after the U.S. and Mexico reached a bilateral preliminary agreement earlier this week. Carlo Dade, director of the Centre on Trade and Investment Policy at The Canada West Foundation, discusses with CGTN’s Elaine Reyes.