US, Canada still have work to do on NAFTA

Secretary Sonny Perdue speaks to Dairy Farmers at Trinity Valley Dairy in Cortland New York U.S. August 23

The news was stunning because negotiators for all three countries had been trying to hammer out a new accord for over a year, ever since President Donald Trump followed through on his campaign threat to demand the North American Free Trade Agreement be scrapped or replaced.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign minister, returned to Washington on Tuesday for talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

"Our officials are meeting now and will be meeting until very late tonight".

"We have been very clear on that, that there can not be more access given", Wiens said in a telephone interview.

"I spoke with Ambassador Lighthizer over the weekend", Freeland said.

US officials say time is running out to reach a deal that the current Congress can vote on. Under U.S. law, Trump must wait 90 days before signing the pact.

The uncertainty over the fate of NAFTA, in light of a tentative U.S. -Mexico trade deal, has not gone away even as trade experts note that members of Congress, concerned about the trade ties between the two countries, may help ensure that a final deal includes Canada. They are aiming to complete a deal by the end of the month so that Mexico, Canada and the USA can sign an agreement by the end of November.

Trudeau, whose federal Liberal government relies on support from Ontario and Quebec where most dairy farmers live, has said he will defend Canada's dairy industry, without giving details.

As Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland arrived back in Washington, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned of what he termed "massive disruption" and job loses on both sides of the border if Washington follows through on threats to impose auto tariffs.

Meanwhile, figures provided to CBC News show that Canada collected almost $300 million in July and August after Ottawa slapped US imports with retaliatory tariffs. "Nafta has been the worst trade deal ever".

Canada's main stock market started the week down for seventh-straight day amid an off-day for any headlines on NAFTA as negotiations are set to resume Tuesday.

"The atmosphere is absolutely professional", she said.

The two sides have so far been unable to resolve their differences over USA access to the Canadian dairy market, a cultural exemption for Canada and the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism.

Trudeau, who over the previous year has faced increasing criticism for backtracking on promises, ordering endless consultations on major topics and failing to fulfill many of his campaign promises, had taken a tougher stance against the United States in recent weeks. It also wants to continue protections for its dairy industry and defend lumber exports to the United States, which have been hit with duties.

What Trump hesitates to acknowledge is the interdependence between the US and Canadian economies.

New chapters governing the digital economy and stronger intellectual property, labor and environmental standards could also work to the benefit of US companies, possibly helping Trump to fulfill his campaign promise of creating more American jobs.

Some see the tight time-frame as a challenge. "We've got the best negotiators in the world, but they can only stay awake so many hours of every day".

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