Following a flurry of activity this week, NAFTA talks between the US and Canada have concluded for the week. This follows off-the-record comments made by Trump, and made public by the Toronto Star on Friday that Trump does not want to compromise with Canada.
Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke following the conclusion of talks today.
"The United States and Canada have now agreed to negotiate beyond the Friday deadline. While members of Congress could theoretically object, they are unlikely to do so, since most are eager for Canada to remain part of the pact." Talks between the US and Canada are expected to resume again next week. This latest news has created more uncertainty in an already uncertain future for an agreement. But there is still hope that a new free trade deal will include Canada.
On late Friday, the Trump Administration sent Congress a letter formally notifying of their intention to sign a trade deal with Mexico. While the letter only signaled a deal with Mexico, there is still time for Canada to be included. This letter is required for the administration to sign a trade deal under "fast-track" authority, which requires a straight up or down vote by Congress for approval. This letter starts the 90-day clock before the earliest date that a deal can be signed.
Earlier this week, the US reached a bi-lateral trade deal with Mexico, and Trump announced his intention to rename the agreement from NAFTA. Canada rejoined NAFTA talks after sitting out while the US and Mexico worked on negotiating a trade deal. Canada resumed talks to negotiate bi-lateral and tri-lateral issues and look at creating a tri-lateral deal between the three countries. However, following an eventful Friday, talks have concluded. They are expected to resume again next week.
Other Links and Resources:
NAFTA 2.0 End Game Briefer - Canada Institute - Aug. 30
What to watch as Canada looks for a breakthrough in NAFTA talks - Financial Post - Aug. 31
Friday isn’t the real deadline for ‘NAFTA 2.0’ - The Washington Post - Aug. 30
COLIN ROBERTSON THE GLOBE AND MAIL AUGUST 28, 2018: A little more than a year after negotiations began on a revised North American free-trade agreement, a deal looks possible, although big questions remain.
For much of the past two months, Mexican and American negotiators have wrestled with the U.S. demand around the content rules for our most-traded commodity, the automobile. North Americans produce 17.5 million cars or trucks annually. The original U.S. demand of 85 per cent North American content with 50 per cent of that “Made in the USA” has apparently morphed into 75 per cent North American content with 40 per cent to 45 per cent made by workers making US$16 or more a hour.
The devil is always in the details, but Canadian industry and its workers can live with this and, if this gives U.S. President Donald Trump his “win,” then we are on our way to a deal.So, too, with the “sunset” clause. Originally, the United States wanted the new agreement to lapse after five years – something investors said would freeze investment, especially into Canada and Mexico. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer reportedly says it will now be 16 years with a review after six years. We can live with that.
On dispute settlement, or Chapter 19, the picture is murky and we will need clarification. The Trump team originally wanted to jettison the binational mechanism, and it appears there will be investor-state provisions, something U.S. industry lobbied hard to retain, and some form of recourse, beyond the U.S. system, for energy and infrastructure. Canada and Mexico need to stand firm. We need recourse from U.S. trade-remedy legislation – countervail, anti-dump and, as the Trump administration misapplies it, national security.
If reports are accurate, there appears to be near-agreement on agriculture (good for Canadian farmers) and on intellectual property (unchanged) but again, the devil will be in the details.
The negotiators were originally aiming for 30-plus chapters of NAFTA but until now only nine had been closed and, of course, nothing is truly closed until it is all done.
So what remains and how might they be resolved? From Canada’s perspective, assuming we can work out dispute settlement, we need to see action on three more items.
The coming days – more likely weeks – will be a test of Canadian negotiators. They are a very experienced team and they are up to the task as long as the government has their backs.
This is the bigger question: Can the Trudeau government take the political flak that will inevitably come its way? It won’t be sunny ways. If it can stick it out, the Trudeau government will make as big a contribution to Canadian well being and competitiveness as Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservative government did with the original Canada-U.S. FTA and then the NAFTA. It would be no small legacy.
PNWER will continue to monitor events next week as this process unfolds. Thank you for your interest and support of the greatest trading relationship in the world. We remain committed to seeing a renegotiated NAFTA that will be a win-win for all three countries, and that will reinforce the strength of the North American integrated economy, and enhance our competitiveness in global markets.