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article imageOp-Ed: Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister hopes for NAFTA agreement soon

By Ken Hanly     Aug 6, 2018 in Politics
Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, said that she is prepared to move quickly forward on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Act once the US and Mexico reach agreement on autos.
Freeland downplays Canada's exclusion from two-way talks between US and Mexico
Freeland told reporters: “I and Canada are very, very keen to get it done as quickly as possible. We’re very, very supportive of moving forward fast, and we are in close touch with both our Mexican and U.S. counterparts."
Robert Lighthizer the US Trade Representative said late last month that an agreement in principle could be achieved in August. He also blamed Canada for failure to finish negotiations claiming that it had not compromised as the US and Mexico had. Since then most of the negotiations are going on without Canada as the US concentrates on bilateral issues particularly with respect to autos.
Freeland maintains that Canada and the US have already moved past some of the key auto issues with respect to domestic content requirements and rules of origin before the talks had stalled in May. The US and Mexico still had work to do but were making progress.
Freeland said referring to the auto issue: “That is the engine of this deal. It is fiendishly complicated, and that needs to get sorted out.”
When asked whether she or the Canadian chief negotiator Steve Verheul would be in Washington this coming week she sidestepped the question saying only that Canada was ready to negotiate anytime anywhere. She said she looked forward to discussing remaining issues with her Mexican and US counterparts.
As usual, there is almost no detail as to what is happening or what remains to be done. Negotiations seem to be with top officials and not teams of negotiators. In spite of the fact the US is negotiating just with Mexico on some issues Freeland nevertheless maintained that NAFTA is still absolutely a trilateral deal. She claimed that the US and Mexico are close to a deal on the sale of autos.
Canada rebuffed by US as it deals only with Mexico
A Bloomberg article maintains that according to three people with knowledge of the negotiations Canada's negotiating team led by Freeland has been rebuffed by the US in recent attempts to discuss changes in NAFTA.
US Trade Representaive Lighthizer may want a breakthrough on the crucial issue of rules for car production. He may also want to finish negotiations with Mexico before the new Mexican president takes office. The US worries that Mexico has an advantage over the US because of its cheaper wages.
However, another factor involved is Trump's belief that one-on-one deals with countries give the US a negotiating advantage. Just two months ago Trump vented his anger at Trudeau in a twitter tirade calling him dishonest and week after Trudeau said he would retaliate against US steel and aluminum tariffs at a Group of Seven meeting in Quebec.
Canada would be best to simply give up on NAFTA
NAFTA is really an agreement that is mainly in the interest of global corporations in the three countries involved. Trump is trying to renegotiate to give some advantages to corporations domiciled in the US. However key items such as the proportionality clause as discussed in an article by Professor Gordon Laxer are not even on the table. A recent article notes: "Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of advocacy group the Council of Canadians echoes Laxer’s concerns. “For decades, the Council of Canadians has been arguing that NAFTA erodes our ability to have sovereignty over our energy resources”, she says, “and we have been proven right”.Professor Laxer says he hopes people will take note of the tri-national analysis and begin to put pressure on politicians to modify the agreement to take concerns of the environment and sovereignty into account, and to enable the country to move away from fossil fuel dependency. "
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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