NAFTA talks to resume in afternoon after Canada cites 'goodwill'

07 September, 2018, 17:10 | Author: Sally Reid
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Talks with Canada aimed at bringing the top USA trading partner into the tentative deal struck with Mexico broke off Friday without success, but the parties agreed to continue talks this week.

NAFTA came into effect in 1994, a successor to the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is to resume talks with USA trade czar Robert Lighthizer, whom she has praised as a "good faith" negotiator in the face of President Donald Trump's Twitter barrages.

On Thursday afternoon, Freeland described the atmosphere as "constructive" and "positive".

"We're seeing goodwill on all sides and if we see some more flexibility, then I think we can start to see things moving in a good direction", added the source.

Mexican and US officials have invited Canada to rejoin the talks, and Mexican and Canadian authorities act as though Canada will rejoin negotiations as a "third partner", but make no mistake - Canada will be negotiating with the USA and, in light of the president's complaints about Canadian dairy tariffs, the highest hurdle will be Canada's supply management programs.

Using the dubious example of his own success in convincing Ronald Reagan to do something the USA president had already announced he wanted to do in his inaugural address, namely open trade from the Yukon to the Yucatan, the former Canadian prime minister advised Justin Trudeau to develop a close, personal relationship with Trump. "I love Canada", he said.

Whether Trump could make good on that threat remains an open question.

Trump lashed out at Canada after talks last week failed to yield a final deal.

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There are however a number of contentious issues in the U.S. The Trump administration on Friday notified Congress that it intended by the end of November to sign a new trade deal "with Mexico - and with Canada if it is willing".

"We will not sign a deal that is bad for Canadians and, quite frankly, not having a Chapter 19 to ensure that the rules are followed would be bad for Canadians". It also comes just eight weeks before mid-term elections in which control of the US legislative body is at stake and trade has already become a volatile issue.

Investors also seemed to wait for any fresh update over the progress in talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) before positioning for the next leg of directional move. But Canada's dairy industry - backed by Quebec politicians of all stripes - is adamant that it won't stand for the government allowing the US any more market access, saying it has compromised enough on past trade deals with the European Union and Pacific Rim countries. The best known Chapter 19 cases involving Canada have had to do with softwood lumber, and in the mid-2000s, the dispute resolution panels ruled repeatedly against the USA, strengthening Ottawa's negotiating position.

The Trump vitriol aimed at Canada over the weekend also put pressure on Trudeau not to bend to USA demands even if economists warn a collapse of NAFTA could be very damaging to the Canadian economy.

The U.S. and Mexico reached a side deal last month, leaving Canada to negotiate separately with the U.S.

He also said existing protections that ban US media firms from buying Canadian cultural industries such as television stations and newspapers must be maintained.

But he now worries that the fight over NAFTA's future could set back the hard-won political gains of the pact and prompt both Canada and Mexico to look increasingly beyond a less-reliable USA to build other global partnerships. Wyden in a statement Tuesday said "you can't fix NAFTA without fixing issues with Canada" while also asserting that Congress has "authority over trade - the president cannot pull America out of NAFTA without Congress's permission".

In making his argument, Trudeau warned that abandoning the cultural exemption would be tantamount to surrendering Canada's sovereignty and identity because it could enable, for example, an American network to buy Canadian newspapers or TV networks.

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