Canada pushes for deal

Ottawa hop­ing for NAFTA agree­ment de­spite miss­ing sig­nif­i­cant tar­get date


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.”

The pres­sure mounted week.

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 analysing 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 U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

In Wash­ing­ton, se­nior Cana­dian staff held meet­ings at the White House on Thurs­day morn­ing, and Free­land was fly­ing into town for other meet­ings later in the day.

“We will do an as­sess­ment of where are we and is there a chance of pulling all this to­gether in a fairly rapid fash­ion or not?” said Cana­dian am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton David Mac­Naughton.

“We’re pretty close,” he said. “There are still some tough issues to deal with, but do you re­ally want to kick this down the road and miss the op­por­tu­nity to ... pull all that good work that’s been done to­gether and get some­thing for­mally done?”

He made an ar­gu­ment sim­i­lar to Trudeau: that the au­tos changes alone would de­liver a ma­jor win for the U.S. Mac­Naughton noted that Trump’s stated ob­jec­tive in these talks was to re­duce his coun­try’s trade deficit.

“Eighty per cent of that deficit has to do with au­tos. We’re that close on au­tos,” he said, il­lus­trat­ing with a thumb and index fin­ger held close to­gether.

“If you want to get this over the fin­ish line, we’re a long way to­wards get­ting it there. So let’s wrap it up and get it done.”


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the Cana­dian Consulate Gen­eral in New York on Thurs­day. Ear­lier in the day, speak­ing at the Eco­nomic Club of New York, Trudeau said the stick­ing points to rene­go­ti­at­ing NAFTA is the United States’ de­mand for a sun­set clause and that the deal be rene­go­ti­ated ev­ery five years.

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