Canada presses on NAFTA deal, despite deadline
WASHINGTON — Canada launched a multi-front push for a quick NAFTA deal Thursday, vowing to keep working despite a failure to complete negotiations in time to meet a politically significant target date.
In meetings in Washington and New York, at the White House and in other government buildings, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, and several top government officials kept pursuing a conclusion.
They urged their American colleagues to plow ahead even if it’s potentially too late after this week to meet the procedural deadlines for a vote on a deal under the current U.S. Congress this year.
“We’ll keep working until they shut off the lights,” Trudeau told reporters in New York.
“We are close to a deal.” The Canadian government’s view is that the agreement already on the table might not satisfy all American demands but would make a real difference in the crucial auto industry, and upgrade numerous other chapters.
Trudeau admitted to being unsure whether a deal will take days, weeks, or be put off indefinitely.
But a public rift with Mexico illustrated the complexity of the talks. The Mexican government scolded the prime minister over one element of the sales pitch he delivered in New York: Trudeau argued that the autos changes would send some Mexican jobs back to the U.S.
In the midst of a presidential election campaign in that country, and facing its own political pressures at home, the Mexican government publicly challenged Canada’s prime minister.
“A clarification is necessary,” Mexico’s economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, tweeted. “Any renegotiated NAFTA that implies losses of existing Mexican jobs is unacceptable.”
Any failure to get a deal immediately would make it impossible to vote on a deal this year in the U.S. Congress, meaning more business and political uncertainty, as many current politicians in Mexico and the U.S. will no longer be in office next year.
Top U.S. lawmaker Paul Ryan had declared Thursday as the last date for meeting the procedural deadlines for a vote this year. On Thursday, he revised that slightly.
Ryan clarified that if the independent body in the U.S. tasked with analyzing trade deals managed to assess the new NAFTA faster than legally required, then in theory an agreement could still get to the floor for a vote in this Congress.
In New York, Trudeau made his case during a public event on the Fox Business channel and in a private meeting with an economic adviser to President Donald Trump.
In Washington, senior Canadian staff held meetings at the White House on Thursday morning.