PM feels ‘pos­i­tive’ over NAFTA talks

National Post (National Edition) - - FINANCIAL POST - Jonathan Spicer And Sharay An­gulo

NEW YORK/MEX­ICO CITY • Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau on Thurs­day said he felt “pos­i­tive” about talks to re­work the NAFTA trade pact, while a top Mex­i­can of­fi­cial held out hope a deal could be ham­mered out by the end of May.

U.S. of­fi­cials say ne­go­ti­a­tions need to wrap up very soon to give the cur­rent Congress time to vote on a fi­nal text.

“To be hon­est, we are down to a point where there is a good deal on the ta­ble,” Trudeau told the Eco­nomic Club of New York.

“It’s right down to the last con­ver­sa­tions ... I’m feel­ing pos­i­tive about this, but it won’t be done until it’s done.”

Cana­dian Foreign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land was due to travel to the U.S. cap­i­tal Thurs­day for in­ter­nal meet­ings and talks with key stake­hold­ers. A Mex­i­can tech­ni­cal ne­go­ti­at­ing team is in Wash­ing­ton but there is no date set for the next NAFTA min­is­te­rial meet­ing.

Mex­ico’s Econ­omy Min­is­ter Ilde­fonso Gua­jardo said a deal could be reached by the end of May, but added that if no agree­ment is reached the talks could ex­tend beyond the July 1 Mex­i­can pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. For that to hap­pen, though, the U.S. and Mex­ico would have to end what of­fi­cials say is dead­lock over U.S. de­mands to raise wages in the auto sec­tor and boost the North Amer­i­can con­tent of cars made in the three NAFTA na­tions.

Crit­ics com­plain the move is a clear swipe at Mex­ico, which U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says brought in lowwage man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs at Amer­i­can ex­pense af­ter NAFTA was signed in 1994.

“Any rene­go­ti­ated NAFTA that im­plies losses of ex­ist­ing Mex­i­can jobs is un­ac­cept­able,” Gua­jardo said.

Un­der the statute that would al­low a sim­ple yes or no vote on NAFTA, Trump must no­tify Congress 90 days be­fore he can sign the agree­ment. The U.S. In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion then has up to 105 days af­ter the sign­ing to pro­duce a study on the ef­fects of the agree­ment.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan had said that the Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled Congress would need to be no­ti­fied of a new deal by Thurs­day to give law­mak­ers a chance to ap­prove it be­fore a newly elected Congress takes over in Jan­uary.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau told the Eco­nomic Club of New York on Thurs­day that he feels there is “a good deal on the ta­ble” for NAFTA, “but it won’t be done until it’s done.”

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