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article imageCanada-U.S. NAFTA negotiations come down to the wire

By Karen Graham     Aug 31, 2018 in Politics
Washington - The Trump administration is pushing Canada to give ground on its politically sensitive dairy sector as talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement approach a U.S.-imposed deadline of Friday for a tentative deal.
President Donald Trump has set a deadline of Friday for ironing out differences between Canada and the U.S. on the North American Free Trade Agreement but by the end of the day Thursday, a cloud of doubt hung over the proceedings.
CTV News Canada is reporting that according to a written statement on Friday morning from the U.S. Trade Representative, Canada had not made any concessions on U.S. dairy access, but talks were continuing.
The Canadian Press is reporting that Canadian officials are signaling that expectations of a deal being imminent are overstated.
However, Trump's take on the negotiations are slightly different, with him signaling that Canada will have to give in and accept the Mexico-U.S. deal already in place, according to an interview with Bloomberg in Washington on Thursday.
"Canada’s going to make a deal at some point. It may be by Friday or it may be within a period of time, but ultimately they have no choice,” Trump said. "I think we’re close to a deal.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland worked late into the night Thursday and left the table with no gains on either side. They reconvened Friday morning, but Canadian officials are actually doubtful a deal can be reached today.
Lighthizer has refused to budge, despite Freeland offering concessions to maintain an independent trade dispute mechanism in the "revamped trade deal," something that has been a big sticking point with Canada.
The United States wants to eliminate Chapter 19, a dispute-resolution mechanism that has hindered it from pursuing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. Mexico agreed to cut the mechanism, but Canada wants it retained in a new NAFTA deal. And keeping Chapter 19 is important to Canada's efforts to make some concessions to its dairy industry.
Trump has argued that Canada's tariffs on U.S. dairy products is hurting American farmers — and this is an important political argument for Republicans. But Canada's dairy farmers also have a great deal of political clout up North, and any concessions could hurt the ruling Liberal party ahead of a 2019 federal election, reports Reuters.
The outcome of these protracted negotiations could be determined today, but things appear uncertain as another deadline looms.
More about Nafta, friday deadline, Canada, US, dairy sector
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