Canada's Freeland says U.S. NAFTA talks still constructive, productive

Irving Hamilton
September 14, 2018

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has returned to Washington resume heated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations.

Freeland added that to achieve a NAFTA deal, "It's going to take flexibility on all sides".

Canada and the United States have been negotiating since August 28 after Washington unveiled a proposed North American free-trade deal with Mexico and pressed Canada to sign on or be left out.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland sounded sanguine on Wednesday as she emerged from negotiations with top us trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer, although she cautioned that no trade deal was done until the last issue was nailed down.

One of the sticking points is access to the Canadian market for United States dairy farmers.

Canada's politically powerful dairy farmers are likely to resist changes to the price controls and high tariffs that protect them from foreign competition.

Trump sounded a more upbeat note earlier, and said he expected to know whether a deal could be struck to include Canada in the next few days.

"I think we understand there are certain issues on which we will need to compromise", one of the sources said when asked about increased dairy access for the USA industry.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, speaking in an interview broadcast on Sunday, said Canada had to scrap a low-price milk proteins policy to reach a deal on NAFTA. U.S.

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Negotiations have stretched on for 13 months so far and are stalled on a number of issues including dispute resolution, cultural protection, and how much access American farmers should have to the Canadian dairy market.

But there remain obstacles to reaching a deal, which both US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they were prepared to walk away from.

After emerging from her meeting with Lighthizer on Friday, Freeland said the negotiations had entered a "very intense" phase, during which officials have been meeting "24-7".

"I think it's something that we obviously have to be aware (of), that the president is contemplating", said Trudeau.

No word yet on when she might return to Washington to continue NAFTA talks.

The Teamsters Canada believes that the best compromise is to conclude a new free trade agreement with the United States would be dropping the chapter 19 of the NAFTA.

So far, Canada has been unable to obtain a guarantee from the United States that Canadians would not be hit with punitive US auto tariffs if Ottawa agrees to a new NAFTA deal with Washington.

Mulroney acknowledged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is on a short leash from the White House when it comes to what he can offer in the talks, but noted that Trump trusts Lighthizer a lot.

Freeland said Canada's main goal is to get a good deal, not focus on the end-of-September deadline.

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