Democrats warn against ex­clud­ing Canada from NAFTA

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - NEWS - STEVEN CHASE CAROLYN KASTER/AP

Pelosi heaps pres­sure on Trump ahead of po­ten­tial re­sump­tion of talks be­tween Free­land and Lighthizer

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is fac­ing more re­sis­tance to his threat to move ahead with an ex­clu­sive U.S.-Mex­ico trade deal that leaves Canada with­out pref­er­en­tial ac­cess to the Amer­i­can mar­ket.

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, warned the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion on Fri­day that the North Amer­i­can free-trade agree­ment should be main­tained as a tri­lat­eral pact be­tween the United States, Mex­ico and Canada and not just a U.S.Mex­ico ar­range­ment.

Any trade deal that is reached will be re­viewed by the next Congress that con­venes in Jan­uary and Ms. Pelosi could be the Speaker of the House if Democrats win this Novem­ber’s elec­tions. “I think it should be tri­lat­eral,” Ms. Pelosi told re­porters of the trade ac­cord, adding she does not think it would be “in the in­ter­est of this hemi­sphere” to turn NAFTA into a bi­lat­eral trade agree­ment be­tween the United States and Mex­ico.

It’s pos­si­ble top-level NAFTA talks could re­sume as early as Tues­day be­tween Cana­dian For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land and her Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer. But that has yet to be de­cided.

Ms. Free­land and Mr. Lighthizer are ex­pected to talk by tele­phone on Sun­day or Mon­day to dis­cuss whether the Cana­dian cabi­net min­is­ter should re­turn to Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day for more ne­go­ti­a­tions, a source fa­mil­iar with the talks said. Mr. Lighthizer sig­nalled to the Cana­di­ans he would be avail­able if war­ranted on Tues­day, Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day next week, the source said.

The source de­scrib­ing the Canada-U.S. talks re­jected the no­tion that talks were go­ing nowhere and char­ac­ter­ized dis­cus­sions as inch­ing for­ward on a range of sub­jects. Chief Cana­dian ne­go­tia­tor Steve Ver­heul spent Thurs­day in Wash­ing­ton in dis­cus­sions with his U.S. coun­ter­part but flew to Toronto for meet­ings on Fri­day with Ms. Free­land.

The chief of Canada’s dairy lobby, Dairy Farm­ers of Canada pres­i­dent Pierre Lam­pron, met on Fri­day in Toronto with Ms. Free­land, Mr. Ver­heul and other staff about the NAFTA talks.

Vet­eran trade con­sul­tant Peter Clark said his im­pres­sion is that progress is be­ing made, how­ever in­cre­men­tally. “They are mak­ing haste slowly,” he said.

Talks have been stale­mated over Canada’s heav­ily pro­tected dairy mar­ket and the fu­ture of the bind­ing Chap­ter 19 ap­peal process for com­pa­nies hit by anti-dump­ing or coun­ter­vail­ing du­ties. The United States wants to wa­ter down or elim­i­nate NAFTA’s Chap­ter 19, win sig­nif­i­cant new ac­cess to Canada’s dairy mar­ket and re­lax for­eign-owner- ship re­stric­tions on Cana­dian me­dia com­pa­nies by re­mov­ing a cul­tural-ex­emp­tion clause in the trade pact. So far, Canada has been un­able to ob­tain a guar­an­tee from the United States that the coun­try would not be hit with puni­tive U.S. auto tar­iffs if Ot­tawa agrees to a new NAFTA deal.

In late Au­gust, the United States and Mex­ico an­nounced a pro­posed sweep­ing bi­lat­eral deal to over­haul NAFTA and are press­ing Canada to ac­cept or risk get­ting kicked out of the conti- nen­tal trade pact. The Amer­i­cans and Cana­di­ans have been ne­go­ti­at­ing since to see whether they can reach an ar­range­ment that would al­low all three coun­tries to move for­ward.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has threat­ened to pro­ceed with­out Canada and has set Sept. 30 as the dead­line for the text of the pro­posed U.S.-Mex­ico agree­ment to be ham­mered out.

Mex­ico is not re­sist­ing the Trump ef­fort to cut out Canada. Ken­neth Smith Ramos, Mex­ico’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, was un­apolo­getic this week about Mex­ico’s in­ten­tion to move ahead even with­out Canada. “We hope the U.S. and Canada will con­clude their bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tion shortly,” he said via Twitter. “If that is not pos­si­ble, we [Mex­ico] are ready to ad­vance bi­lat­er­ally with the U.S.”

Ms. Pelosi is not the first mem­ber of Congress to warn Mr. Trump off try­ing to push a U.S.Mex­ico deal through. Oth­ers in­clude Democratic Sen­a­tor Pa­trick Leahy, who has said a re­vised trade deal would not pass the Se­nate un­less it in­cluded Canada, which he de­scribed as the United States’ “great­est trad­ing part­ner.”

With re­ports from Reuters

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land, seen ar­riv­ing at the the U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s of­fice in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day, could re­turn to the city as early as Sept. 18.

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