September 10, 2017 11:09 am

Chances of success for NAFTA talks ‘below 50 per cent’: former trade envoy

Very difficult to get NAFTA deal by end of the year: Hills

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One of the original architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement says the chances of reaching an updated deal that everyone is happy with are probably “below 50 per cent.”

Ambassador Carla Hills was George H.W. Bush’s trade representative during NAFTA‘s initial drafting in the early 1990s. She sat down with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend in Washington.

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READ MORE: NAFTA talks progress well in Mexico, will re-start in Ottawa Sept. 23

“I think it’s within the art of the possible to reach a deal,” Hills said of the ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA taking place this summer and fall.

Ottawa is expected to host the third round of talks at the end of this month. If some of the more contentious issues can be left off the table for now, Hills said, that might help the parties come to an agreement faster.

“What is the likelihood of that happening? I think that’s below 50 per cent. I think it’s going to be very difficult to get a finished agreement,” she said.

“You run into the worry of the elections that come next year, both in Mexico in July but next November 2018 here in the United States. But I am hopeful that we will get a deal.”

WATCH: Trump calls NAFTA one-sided deal for Canada and Mexico

As for U.S. President Donald Trump’s vocal criticism of NAFTA, Hills maintained that the trade agreement she helped create 25 years ago was one of the best in the world.

“I wish those around (Trump) would explain what the NAFTA actually does. And that it created a market with 490 million consumers with $19 trillion dollars of output. That it opened up the three markets so that they could trade together.”

NAFTA may even have helped birth the World Trade Organization itself, she added.

“I believe it would not have happened without that competitive liberalization that started here in North America.”

Still, Hills agrees that NAFTA was an agreement for a different era, and that it is in dire need of a 21st-century update that reflects the modern, digitally driven economy.

“It’s kind of like upgrading an old but lovely house. You should paint it once in a while, and the NAFTA needs a good coat of paint,” Hills told Kapelos, noting that a single trade agreement cannot be blamed for job losses in America.

“Where the United States has fallen short is to recognize that as the economy has moved more rapidly toward electronic and media coverage, that jobs have changed.”

Watch the full interview with Ambassador Carla Hills above.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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