Ap­proval of trade deal closer

Mex­i­can of­fi­cial says rat­i­fi­ca­tion of USMCA there if po­lit­i­cal will

The Peterborough Examiner - - CANADA & WORLD - JOR­DAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — Mex­ico’s point man on the new North Amer­i­can free-trade agree­ment shed some light on the re­main­ing im­ped­i­ments to fi­nal­iz­ing the deal by end of year — sug­gest­ing ev­ery­one could be shak­ing hands by next week if there’s enough po­lit­i­cal will.

Je­sus Seade, the Mex­i­can un­der­sec­re­tary for North Amer­ica, said he ex­pects the deal to cross the fin­ish line soon, but noted the short time left for Congress to go through the ap­proval process when it still hasn’t taken the first step to­ward rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

Con­gres­sional lead­ers have only three weeks left in their leg­isla­tive calendar be­fore they dis­perse un­til 2020 and their fo­cus shifts to next fall’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. And loom­ing over Congress is a Democrat­driven im­peach­ment in­quiry into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Amer­i­can of­fi­cials had talked about fi­nal­iz­ing a deal by U.S. Thanks­giv­ing, which was Thurs­day. On Wed­nes­day, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land, who over­sees ne­go­ti­a­tions for this coun­try, flew to Wash­ing­ton in a bid to find a bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tion to the stalled rat­i­fi­ca­tion process.

She also met with Seade on Fri­day in Ot­tawa to find a way for­ward.

“It’s more im­por­tant to get the right treaty than a quick treaty,” Seade said at a news con­fer­ence at the Mex­i­can em­bassy af­ter wrapping up meet­ings.

“If there are dif­fi­cul­ties, we’ll deal with the is­sues, but if the amend­ments sug­gested are fine, are ac­cept­able, are im­prove­ments, then there’s no rea­son why we should not be shak­ing hands next week.”

Talks have in­ten­si­fied lately to get the deal ap­proved with only a few weeks left in the calendar year for the U.S. Congress to rat­ify the agree­ment — a time­line Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives speaker, has pub­licly dis­cussed.

But stand­ing in the way have been con­cerns from Pelosi’s fel­low Democrats over labour and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, prompt­ing their push for stricter en­force­ment mea­sures. Democrats want to give the deal more reach to pre­vent man­u­fac­tur­ing and au­to­mo­tive com­pa­nies from re­lo­cat­ing fac­to­ries to Mex­ico, where they could pay em­ploy­ees far less, al­though Seade ar­gued Mex­ico has “all the re­sources nec­es­sary” to en­force labour stan­dards.

Still, Seade called their con­cerns “valid” dur­ing brief re­marks along­side Prime Min­is­ter

Justin Trudeau dur­ing a morn­ing meet­ing, adding that most of the is­sues are im­prove­ments the three sides agree on.

All three coun­tries have signed the United States-Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment, but it has to be rat­i­fied by their leg­is­la­tures be­fore it takes ef­fect.

So far, only Mex­ico has taken that step.

Most of the trou­ble is be­tween the United States and Mex­ico, but Canada can play a role in smooth­ing things out, such as by help­ing Mex­ico adopt Cana­dian-style sys­tems for cer­ti­fy­ing unions.

How that might work is through a side agree­ment to the deal, since Canada main­tains the core text of the pact isn’t open to fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Trudeau for his part said that Canada “is ex­tremely sup­port­ive of Mex­ico’s steps to­wards labour re­forms.”

Seade said it was only in the last few days that the three coun­tries had draft texts of th­ese side deals to look over.

One would cre­ate a dis­put­eres­o­lu­tion mech­a­nism tied to labour pro­vi­sions in the deal, which Seade said would pro­vide a re­li­able mech­a­nism to set­tle dis­agree­ments with­out the abil­ity of one coun­try to block. He also said it would pre­vent the need for “Lone Ranger” in­spec­tors to be parachuted into Mex­i­can fa­cil­i­ties to check for vi­o­la­tions — a red line for the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment.

Seade also said there will be some ac­com­mo­da­tion on ex­piry dates on patents for some phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, which Mex­i­can and Cana­dian ne­go­tia­tors feel is too long be­fore cheaper, generic ver­sions can come onto the mar­ket.

FRED CHARTRAND THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land meets with Mex­ico's Un­der­sec­re­tary for North Amer­ica, Je­sus Seade, in Ot­tawa Fri­day.

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