Canada and Mex­ico cold to U.S. us­ing TPP to make progress in NAFTA

Medicine Hat News - - NATION -

OT­TAWA As NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions re­sume this week, Canada and Mex­ico have been tak­ing a hard line against the so-called “poi­son pills” the U.S. has put for­ward dur­ing their in­creas­ingly ac­ri­mo­nious talks.

But sources say the two coun­tries plan to give the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion a rough ride in an area that hardly seems con­tentious: lan­guage from the orig­i­nal Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

Canada and Mex­ico, the sources say, are in no hurry to adopt the sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of TPP text that Amer­i­can ne­go­tia­tors have brought to the NAFTA ta­ble.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew the U.S. from the mas­sive 12-coun­try Pa­cific Rim trade deal in Jan­uary, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. from us­ing it as a tem­plate to bring the 23-year-old NAFTA into the 21st cen­tury, up­dat­ing it for the dig­i­tal age and ecom­merce.

The sources, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity sur­round­ing the NAFTA talks, say Canada has no in­cen­tive to give the U.S. an easy win on the pro­posed TPP boil­er­plate.

That’s be­cause the U.S. has been putting for­ward un­ten­able po­si­tions — the so-called non-starter “poi­son pills” in a five key ar­eas — that some ob­servers have sug­gested are de­signed to sab­o­tage the talks and kill NAFTA out­right.

“We don’t want to give it for free,” said one source. “They wanted out (of the TPP) and now they want it for free.”

An­other source said each spe­cific Amer­i­can pro­posal is be­ing ex­am­ined on its mer­its, and that noth­ing will be rub­ber-stamped just be­cause some­thing may have been agreed to un­der the TPP, to which all three coun­tries orig­i­nally agreed.

It all boils down to a time­honoured prin­ci­ple of ne­go­ti­at­ing, the source said: if one party wants a con­ces­sion in one area, they have to be will­ing to pay for it else­where.

That sug­gests that if the U.S. is seek­ing an easy win on TPP-re­lated is­sues, it might have to con­cede in other con­tentious ar­eas that Canada and Mex­ico find ob­jec­tion­able.

Sources char­ac­ter­ized that ap­proach as a re­sponse to the poi­son-pill pro­pos­als — in­creas­ing Amer­i­can con­tent in au­to­mo­biles, at­tack­ing Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem for agri­cul­ture, es­tab­lish­ing a five-year sun­set clause, do­ing away with a dis­pute set­tle­ment mech­a­nism and re­duc­ing Mex­i­can and Cana­dian ac­cess to bid­ding on U.S. pro­cure­ment projects.

Sources say no progress is ex­pected to be made on those fronts dur­ing the fifth round of talks, which get un­der­way in Mex­ico start­ing Wed­nes­day. The fo­cus, they say, will be on mak­ing in­cre­men­tal progress in a num­ber of other ar­eas — they wouldn’t pro­vide specifics — at the 28 sep­a­rate bar­gain­ing ta­bles.

“These are non-ne­go­tiable, ba­si­cally,” trade ex­pert Pa­trick Le­blond, a se­nior fel­low the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Gov­er­nance In­no­va­tion, said of the most con­tro­ver­sial U.S. pro­pos­als, which are un­ten­able to Canada.

“Will they just re­main on the ta­ble? I think so. Progress will be made on the lesser is­sues.”

Mex­ico threw its sup­port be­hind Canada last week at the APEC sum­mit in Viet­nam when Ja­pan and Aus­tralia were lead­ing a charge to strike a new ver­sion of the TPP with­out the United States.

The Cana­dian Press has re­ported that Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau met Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto on the side­lines of the sum­mit. Pena Ni­eto backed Trudeau’s de­ci­sion to de­lay mov­ing ahead with a newly con­fig­ured “TPP 11.”

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