Canada, U.S. to hold fresh top-level NAFTA talks Wednesday: Ottawa

Cornelia Mascio
Settembre 19, 2018

Trade observers say that while many in Congress want Canada to be part of a three-way trade deal, they may not be willing to sacrifice an agreement in principle between Mexico and the US negotiated earlier this year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to return to the U.S. Trade Representative's office with her negotiating team and advisers at about 11 a.m. ET.

That deal is widely seen to require congressional approval before December 1 in order to survive the arrival of an incoming Mexican government whose supporters have mixed feelings about the deal.

"As I've said from the very beginning, Canadians expect me, particularly with this administration, expect us as a government to do two very important things: One is have a constructive relationship with the American government and two, continue to stand up clearly and strongly for our values and our principles and Canadian interests".

"We love Canada. We love it", he told a news conference. "Love the people of Canada, but they are in a position that is not a good position for Canada. They can not continue to charge us 300 per cent tariff on dairy products, and that's what they're doing". "We're good at finding compromises", Freeland said Tuesday in the House of Commons foyer after a cabinet meeting.

The U.S. and Mexico were able to come to a consensus after a period of bilateral negotiations, and since their agreement was announced, Freeland and the negotiating team have been back and forth to Washington, D.C. for discussions over the remaining Canada-U.S. sticking points, which include possible concessions on supply management, maintaining the dispute resolution mechanism, and protecting Canadian cultural industries. But one source familiar with how the negotiations have progressed, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details freely, says Canada transgressed first with a surprise auto proposal last spring.

That said, Canadian officials say privately that Ottawa will most likely offer US producers more access to the market.

The Sept. 30 deadline was triggered by Trump informing Congress on August 31 that he intends to sign a trade agreement with Mexico, and Canada, if willing.

In a statement released to the USA website Politico, house majority whip Steven Scalise said there is a "growing frustration" among Congress with Canada's "negotiating tactics".

"Canada has taken advantage of our country for a long time". Sources say Canada has offered some limited concessions on access while also ring-fencing the system itself. According to Trudeau's office, the prime minister "reaffirmed his commitment to a deal that works for both countries".

Supply management has been a big issue in the provincial election campaign in Quebec, home to about half of Canada's dairy farms.

Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard has warned there will be "serious political consequences" if there is any further dismantling of the protections for dairy farmers through NAFTA negotiations.

"The rumblings around Washington have been Canada may attempt to push any deal beyond October 1, largely due to the Quebec election", said Dan Ujczo, an OH trade lawyer with Dickinson Wright.

"Rep. Scalise is putting down the marker that these are real deadlines".

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