Canada ‘very encouraged’ by progress on US-Mexican NAFTA talks: Freeland

Canada ‘very encouraged’ by progress on US-Mexican NAFTA talks: Freeland

Trump said Canada had deliberately been frozen out of the NAFTA talks last week

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she’s “very encouraged” by signals from Washington that the United States and Mexico are close to figuring out their bilateral issues within the three-country North American Free Trade Agreement.

But even with the prospect of progress, it remained unclear Wednesday precisely when Canada might be invited back to the bargaining table, let alone when — or even if — the three continental neighbours might wrap up the renegotiation effort that began more than a year ago.

Freeland said she has been in close contact with her U.S. and Mexican counterparts throughout their two-way NAFTA talks, which are now in their fifth week. The issue of rules of origin on autos has been central to the summertime U.S.-Mexico discussions, she added.

“We are very encouraged by what we’re hearing from our NAFTA partners,” Freeland said in Nanaimo, B.C., where she’s taking part in a Liberal government cabinet retreat.

“What we’ve agreed with the U.S. and Mexico is, once the work on those bilateral issues is done, then Canada is looking forward to joining the negotiation and a swift conclusion of the NAFTA negotiations.”

There’s optimism that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo could conclude their face-to-face negotiations as early as this week — and open the door for Canada to re-enter the talks.

A report by Politico, based on information from unidentified sources, said the White House is expected to announce a “handshake” deal between the U.S. and Mexico on Thursday. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to attend the announcement, the report said.

In Washington, Guajardo said Wednesday that he hoped to have a solution in “the next couple of hours, or couple of days.” However, on the possibility of a handshake deal, Guajardo said it would have to involve all three countries.

“What we’re doing here is trying to get and solve the issues that are most important between the U.S. and Mexico — that will lead to a trilateral meeting with Canada,” he said.

“I think the handshake happens when everybody’s done.”

READ MORE: Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

READ MORE: Prime minister greeted by B.C. premier as cabinet retreat begins

Some observers believe the Trump administration has sidelined Ottawa from the NAFTA negotiations. The federal government, a few have warned, could find itself forced into deciding whether to accept a less-appetizing deal hashed out between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Canadian officials, as well as officials from the U.S. and Mexico, have insisted the two-way NAFTA talks are necessary before the three-party negotiations can restart.

“NAFTA is a trilateral agreement, but inside that agreement there are a lot of issues that are chiefly bilateral and that is what they’re focused on,” Freeland said.

The rules of origin on cars is an issue that concerns all three countries — and one where detail matters, she added. “And Canada will very much have a voice in the finalization of all of this.”

Last week, Trump suggested that Canada had deliberately been frozen out of the NAFTA talks.

“We’re not negotiating with Canada right now,” the president said during a televised cabinet meeting. “Their tariffs are too high, their barriers are too strong, so we’re not even talking to them right now. But we’ll see how that works out. It will only work out to our favour.”

Even after the trilateral negotiations resume, the three partners will have to deal with a number of tough sticking points. They include the U.S. proposal that NAFTA include a five-year sunset clause, which has been flatly rejected by the Trudeau Liberals.

This week, media outlets have also said the talks could have a new hurdle: how to address energy issues in a renegotiated NAFTA.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the incoming government of Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants energy investment rules kept out of any new NAFTA. Mexico’s current government, which is overseeing negotiations until Obrador takes office Dec. 1, has already agreed to such a chapter.

Energy, the Journal reported, was left out of the original NAFTA when it came into force 24 years ago because Mexico’s state monopoly on oil didn’t allow private investment in the industry. In 2013, however, the Mexican government opened up the industry to investment — a decision opposed by Obrador.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The monthly totals from Jan.1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 show COVID-19 cases for most Local Health Areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap, other than Vernon’s with the largest population, staying well below 400. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
16 months in, COVID cases in North Okanagan-Shuswap areas stay under 1,000

Vernon, with the largest population, hovers under 900 cases since January 2020

RCMP did not commit offense in arrest which seriously injured Lake Country man, finds IIO. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
Vernon police didn’t use excessive force in domestic takedown: Watchdog

‘One stepped on him and one had his knee in his neck,’ woman told IIO

A fifth wheel fire came dangerously close to a Lake Country home Wednesday afternoon. (Lake Country Fire Department photo)
RCMP, neighbours save Lake Country house from fire

Fifth wheel up in flames next to home

Southbound traffic was reduced to single lane on Highway 97 as a vehicle involved in a collision was being retrieved by a tow truck on Thursday morning, May 6, 2021. (Jennifer Smith-Vernon Morning Star)
Collision causing delays on Highway 97 near Vernon

Southbound traffic reduced to single lane

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Kentucky has more bourbon than people

Your morning start for Thursday, May 6, 2021

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A new video from South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS), released May 6 in collaboration with the Okanagan Chambers COVID Response Coalition (#OKWeGotThis), features members of communities across the Okanagan including Oliver, Penticton, Peachland, Kelowna, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Kamloops. (South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services/Screenshot)
VIDEO: South Okanagan community group releases video addressing racism in the Okanagan

Video begins by using real audio from racist incidents in the Okanagan

The monthly totals from Jan.1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 show COVID-19 cases for most Local Health Areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap, other than Vernon’s with the largest population, staying well below 400. (BC Centre for Disease Control image)
16 months in, COVID cases in North Okanagan-Shuswap areas stay under 1,000

Vernon, with the largest population, hovers under 900 cases since January 2020

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,000 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

A screenshot of the pathway’s construction. (City of Kelowna)
Okanagan Rail Trail to be extended to downtown Kelowna waterfront

Construction of the pathway is scheduled to begin on Monday, May 10

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Central Okanagan recorded 174 cases throughout the week of April 25 to May 1. (BCCDC/Contributed)
Weekly COVID-19 numbers continue to decrease in Central Okanagan

The Central Okanagan had 174 cases from April 25 to May 1

Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Sullivan Mack gets a boost into West Kelowna goalie Johnny Derrick from Warriors forward Tyson Jugnauth during West Kelowna’s 5-4 B.C. Hockey League pod play win Wednesday, May 5, at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place. (Tami Quan Photography)
West Kelowna Warriors hold on to edge Silverbacks

Warriors up three with five minutes to go, give up two late goals but end up with 5-4 BCHL win over Salmon Arm

Most Read