Canada’s negotiating team in Washington is returning to the bargaining table to resume talks with their U.S. counterparts, hoping for a breakthrough to reach a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is looking over the work that officials from both countries did during a long night of talks to move the needle on negotiations and also highlighted concessions made over the summer that she said have been “useful” to the current discussions.
“Some issues important for Canada were resolved in a positive way between the U.S. and Mexico over the summer,” she said.
“Mexico made some very significant, probably quite difficult, concessions over the summer. Those have been useful, particularly on the rules of origin on cars, in creating the possibility for Canada and the United States to move forward.”
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Canadian negotiators spent the morning huddled in the Canadian Embassy to discuss the outcomes of last night’s lengthy conversations with their assessment setting the stage for this afternoon’s face-to-face meeting between Freeland and her American counterpart, Robert Lighthizer, sources said on the condition of
anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The two lead ministers on NAFTA held lengthy meetings in Washington on Wednesday.
Sources said both sides want a deal, but cautioned there remain disagreements on key issues, including dairy, culture and the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism.
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Freeland told reporters at the close of her Wednesday meeting with Lighthizer that she couldn’t predict when the two sides would come to an agreement, saying nothing is settled until everything is settled.
On Thursday afternoon, Freeland described the atmosphere as “constructive” and “positive.”
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Canada and the U.S. need to present an agreed-upon text to the U.S. Congress by Oct. 1 in order to join the deal the Trump administration signed with Mexico.
NAFTA negotiations, now in their 13th month, are key to determining the economic and trade relationship among the three North American countries, with many workers’ and industries’ prospects hanging in the balance.
President Donald Trump is threatening to move ahead on a deal that excludes Canada, but he also needs a win on trade ahead of midterm elections in November that will test his ability to keep control of Congress.
Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traded barbs Wednesday, with each saying they were willing to walk away from NAFTA if they don’t get what they want.
The goal of this week’s talks is to reach a deal by Dec. 1 so Congress can give its approval to a revised three-country NAFTA before Mexico’s new president takes office.