Canada and US make last-ditch effort to save NAFTA deal

World Today

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland (C) arrives for a meeting with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington, DC, on August 30, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON)

A deadline looms for trade talks between the U.S. and Canada. Negotiators have until Friday to hammer out a deal that would save NAFTA. However, it’s unclear if a trilateral agreement will satisfy each party.

CGTN’s Daniel Ryntjes filed this report on the negotiations in Washington.

President Trump agreed to a preliminary deal centered around changes to auto-manufacturing rules with Mexico earlier this week. Then, he immediately pivoted to Canada.

Trump declared that negotiators had until Friday to wrap up a deal. That prompted Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to rush from Europe to Washington, where she continues to negotiate today.

Flavio Volpe, the President of Canada’s Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association, said Canada’s apparent isolation from the talks up until now is a political illusion.

“During that period there was lots of communication informally between the Mexicans and Canada and between the U.S. and Canada. Doesn’t make the headlines. It certainly doesn’t make the tweets, but there are no surprises,” Volpe said.

Canada wants to continue to have a neutral dispute mechanism to resolve differences. It fears arbitrary tariffs being imposed by the Trump administration if that’s not in place.

There’s also a question over whether Canada would be willing to lower tariffs on milk. Canadian dairy farmers are fiercely resistant to a revised NAFTA agreement, because they worry this could make it harder for them to make ends meet. That could leave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vulnerable in next year’s elections.

The U.S. president sounds positive about the prospects for a deal. Still, he maintains that a stand-alone, U.S.-Mexico arrangement could be on the cards if the Canadian deal-making collapses. However, several powerful Republican Senators said Congressional approval would not be granted for any deal that excludes Canada.

The Trump administration wants to hurry a deal through on Friday so that it can formally notify Congress. This would set off a 90-day notice period so that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto can sign off on the deal, just hours before he leaves office. That’s assuming that the U.S. Congress approves the deal in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.