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article imageCanada hopes for breakthrough in next round of NAFTA talks: FM

By AFP     Jan 11, 2018 in World

Canada's foreign minister said Thursday she is hopeful for a breakthrough in the next round of continental free trade talks, despite a possible US withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Speaking to reporters, Chrystia Freeland said negotiators from Canada, the United States and Mexico are "close to closing a number of bread and butter really businessy trade chapters."

"And it would be great if we could make progress on those in Montreal," she said.

The trade representatives are scheduled to meet in Montreal from January 23-28.

The US, Canada and Mexico had given themselves a March deadline to finish talks.

But a Canadian government source told AFP that Ottawa is bracing for the United States to possibly announce sooner that it will pull out of the trade pact.

Addressing those concerns, Freeland said: "From the very beginning the US has been clear about the possibility that the US would invoke article 2205. That is no secret."

"And I think we need to take our neighbors at their word, take them seriously," she added.

"Our approach from the start has been to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. So Canada is prepared for every eventuality."

Article 2205 outlines a process requiring written notice of withdrawal to the other parties, which would trigger a six-month countdown to exit.

Freeland said Canadian negotiators are approaching the Montreal round of talks in a "spirit of goodwill," hoping for "a positive outcome."

She noted also that "when it comes to the more unconventional US proposals, we have been doing some creative thinking."

In a previous round of talks, US negotiators presented some contentious proposals including new stricter rules of origin for automobiles and parts, and the elimination of the NAFTA dispute resolution mechanism -- which Ottawa rejected.

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