Canada, Mex­ico hope to sal­vage huge trade deal

Trudeau, Peña Ni­eto say they won’t walk away from the ta­ble de­spite U.S. hard­ball

Times Colonist - - Nafta - STEPHANIE LEVITZ

MEX­ICO CITY — The lead­ers of Canada and Mex­ico joined forces Thurs­day to com­bat the idea that an ag­gres­sive U.S. de­mand dur­ing the NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions could tank the deal.

The lat­est po­ten­tial poi­son pill came in the form of a U.S. pro­posal for a sun­set clause that would see any new North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment ter­mi­nated af­ter just five years.

The cur­rent deal has been in place for over two decades.

But both Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto said the pro­posal re­mains just that, an idea, and it will be dis­cussed just like ev­ery­thing else on the ta­ble.

“We will con­tinue to take very se­ri­ously the work we do and we will not be walk­ing away from the ta­ble based on pro­pos­als put for­ward,” Trudeau said at a joint news con­fer­ence with Peña Ni­eto in Mex­ico City’s stately Na­tional Palace.

“We will dis­cuss those pro­pos­als, we will counter those pro­pos­als and we will take se­ri­ously th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

Trudeau and Peña Ni­eto talked with their aides and then their for­eign af­fairs and trade teams for close to two hours Thurs­day af­ter­noon, and while the two sides were dis­cussing a range of is­sues, the on­go­ing talks to re­work NAFTA were top of mind.

Peña Ni­eto sug­gested that while ob­servers have made pre­dic­tions that cer­tain pro­pos­als could tank the talks, that’s only spec­u­la­tion.

“I would not pay much at­ten­tion to any state­ments other than that which hap­pens at the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­bles,” he said, ac­cord­ing to an English trans­la­tion of his re­marks.

Peña Ni­eto in­di­cated he was pay­ing at­ten­tion to a sug­ges­tion from U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day that should NAFTA talks fail, bi­lat­eral deals could be ne­go­ti­ated in­stead.

Trudeau didn’t rule out the no­tion, and Peña Ni­eto said he did dis­cuss it with the prime min­is­ter dur­ing their talks.

But he said he also heard Trump say that the three coun­tries could find a cre­ative way to ne­go­ti­ate a new tri­lat­eral pact.

“I think that Canada and Mex­ico share the idea that the NAFTA agree­ment is a good mech­a­nism. It’s not the only one but it’s a good mech­a­nism to ‘po­ten­tial­ize’ the de­vel­op­ment of the North Amer­i­can re­gion and to turn it into the most com­pet­i­tive one.”

Ef­forts by Canada and Mex­ico to deepen their own bi­lat­eral con­nec­tions, how­ever, were on full dis­play Thurs­day.

In the room dur­ing the news con­fer­ence were dozens of Mex­i­can fire­fight­ers who as­sisted in com­bat­ing wild­fires in B.C.

Be­fore their for­mal meet­ing, Peña Ni­eto took Trudeau past a photo dis­play of Cana­dian re­lief ef­forts in the wake of dev­as­tat­ing earth­quakes in Mex­ico last month.

Trudeau is to ad­dress the Mex­i­can Sen­ate on Fri­day, one of only a hand­ful of for­eign lead­ers to have ever done so.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, left, and his wife, So­phie Gré­goire Trudeau, third from left, ex­change gifts Thurs­day at the Na­tional Palace in Mex­ico City with Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Peña Ni­eto, sec­ond from left, and his wife, An­gel­ica Rivera.

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