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

Landis Carmichael is the Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as the Emergency Services Award winner. (Photo courtesy Landis Carmichael)
29-year-old firefighter has spent almost half his life with Langford department

Landis Carmichael is the 2021 recipient of the Emergency Services Award

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney theatre fills bottom line with popcorn sales

Theatre applying to return to doing our household-only private rentals

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday morning due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry sailing cancelled due to high winds, sea state

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

The construction zone remains for now at Clover Point, but plans for a new pedestrian zone and partially closed traffic loop were approved by Victoria councillors on Thursday. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Victoria council compromises with partial closure of Clover Point

Option preserves parking 14 spots facing ocean, creates more pedestrian space

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen as COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Ella Donovan with mom Tina outside Fuller Lake Arena before heading onto the ice for practice. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Young Ladysmith skater watches and waits in battle against cancer

Ella Donovan’s tumour began a tumultuous time, but community support eased the burden

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Most Read