NAFTA negotiations will head to Montreal

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks with the media ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Manila, Philippines Sunday November 12, 2017. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stops at the Jollibee restaurant in Manila, Philippines Sunday November 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

MEXICO CITY – The NAFTA negotiations are moving to non-capital cities for their first meeting outside of Washington, Mexico City and Ottawa.

The destination: Montreal.

Two sources familiar with the negotiations says the next Canada-based round, in late January, will see the talks shift a couple hours’ drive down the road from Ottawa, to Canada’s second-largest city.

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One cited several factors that prompted the Canadian hosts to shift the talks there. Some were political, and one was logistical.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a matter not yet public, said that after talks in Spanish-speaking and English-speaking settings, the Canadians wanted to hold a round in French-speaking Quebec, while also highlighting the importance of manufacturing to various parts of Canada.

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The logistical factor was more mundane: Montreal simply has more hotel rooms than the capital.

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Negotiators at the previous Ottawa round were housed in motels and hotels in far-flung parts of the city, and transported by school bus into a government building, away from stakeholders.

The other negotiating cities have provided central venues, making it easier for the various parties to communicate in person. These include industry groups, labour, negotiators, staff, and media covering the talks.

The current round is being held in a large iconic hotel in central Mexico City.

But the source insisted factors beyond logistics played into the choice.

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“Quebec is an important exporter,” the source said.

“(Also), we’re proud to highlight the diversity of Canada to our NAFTA partners and look forward to welcoming them to Montreal.”

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