Canada ‘very encouraged’ by progress on US-Mexican NAFTA talks: Freeland

Canada ‘very encouraged’ by progress on US-Mexican NAFTA talks: Freeland

Trump said Canada had deliberately been frozen out of the NAFTA talks last week

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she’s “very encouraged” by signals from Washington that the United States and Mexico are close to figuring out their bilateral issues within the three-country North American Free Trade Agreement.

But even with the prospect of progress, it remained unclear Wednesday precisely when Canada might be invited back to the bargaining table, let alone when — or even if — the three continental neighbours might wrap up the renegotiation effort that began more than a year ago.

Freeland said she has been in close contact with her U.S. and Mexican counterparts throughout their two-way NAFTA talks, which are now in their fifth week. The issue of rules of origin on autos has been central to the summertime U.S.-Mexico discussions, she added.

“We are very encouraged by what we’re hearing from our NAFTA partners,” Freeland said in Nanaimo, B.C., where she’s taking part in a Liberal government cabinet retreat.

“What we’ve agreed with the U.S. and Mexico is, once the work on those bilateral issues is done, then Canada is looking forward to joining the negotiation and a swift conclusion of the NAFTA negotiations.”

There’s optimism that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo could conclude their face-to-face negotiations as early as this week — and open the door for Canada to re-enter the talks.

A report by Politico, based on information from unidentified sources, said the White House is expected to announce a “handshake” deal between the U.S. and Mexico on Thursday. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to attend the announcement, the report said.

In Washington, Guajardo said Wednesday that he hoped to have a solution in “the next couple of hours, or couple of days.” However, on the possibility of a handshake deal, Guajardo said it would have to involve all three countries.

“What we’re doing here is trying to get and solve the issues that are most important between the U.S. and Mexico — that will lead to a trilateral meeting with Canada,” he said.

“I think the handshake happens when everybody’s done.”

READ MORE: Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

READ MORE: Prime minister greeted by B.C. premier as cabinet retreat begins

Some observers believe the Trump administration has sidelined Ottawa from the NAFTA negotiations. The federal government, a few have warned, could find itself forced into deciding whether to accept a less-appetizing deal hashed out between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Canadian officials, as well as officials from the U.S. and Mexico, have insisted the two-way NAFTA talks are necessary before the three-party negotiations can restart.

“NAFTA is a trilateral agreement, but inside that agreement there are a lot of issues that are chiefly bilateral and that is what they’re focused on,” Freeland said.

The rules of origin on cars is an issue that concerns all three countries — and one where detail matters, she added. “And Canada will very much have a voice in the finalization of all of this.”

Last week, Trump suggested that Canada had deliberately been frozen out of the NAFTA talks.

“We’re not negotiating with Canada right now,” the president said during a televised cabinet meeting. “Their tariffs are too high, their barriers are too strong, so we’re not even talking to them right now. But we’ll see how that works out. It will only work out to our favour.”

Even after the trilateral negotiations resume, the three partners will have to deal with a number of tough sticking points. They include the U.S. proposal that NAFTA include a five-year sunset clause, which has been flatly rejected by the Trudeau Liberals.

This week, media outlets have also said the talks could have a new hurdle: how to address energy issues in a renegotiated NAFTA.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the incoming government of Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wants energy investment rules kept out of any new NAFTA. Mexico’s current government, which is overseeing negotiations until Obrador takes office Dec. 1, has already agreed to such a chapter.

Energy, the Journal reported, was left out of the original NAFTA when it came into force 24 years ago because Mexico’s state monopoly on oil didn’t allow private investment in the industry. In 2013, however, the Mexican government opened up the industry to investment — a decision opposed by Obrador.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read