Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Canada, US race against midnight deadline for revamping NAFTA

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia
Andy Castillo | 01 October, 2018, 11:39

Canada and the United States reached a deal Sunday night for Canada to stay in a free trade pact with the USA and Mexico.

The agreement was announced just before a Sunday midnight deadline imposed by Washington and a rare, late-night emergency Cabinet meeting convened by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss the deal.

Congress gave Trump's administration authority to renegotiate a trilateral continental free trade pact, which requires a 60-day notice and publication of the text of any agreement.

Despite the fact it's one of Trump's favourite talking points, the politically sensitive question of greater US access to Canada's dairy market is also no longer a hurdle, say sources familiar with the talks.

It also appears to preserve the key dispute-resolution provisions - Chapter 19 - which allows for independent panels to resolve disputes involving companies and governments, as well as Chapter 20, the government-to-government dispute settlement mechanism. USA officials have been keeping President Donald Trump in the loop on every step since Friday, but there was no plan as of 6 p.m.to go to the White House to brief him in person, two people said.

U.S. -Canada talks bogged down earlier this month, and most trade analysts expected the September 30 deadline to come and go without Canada being reinstated.

The US Chamber of Commerce has said it would be "unacceptable to sideline Canada, our largest export market in the world". U.S. officials have been keeping Mr Trump in the loop on every step since last Friday, two people said.

The deal is said to involve more USA access to Canada's dairy market and a cap on Canada's auto exports to the US.

"It provides no certainty for those Canadian businesses that hope to export tariff-free to the U.S. It provides no certainty for those who might invest in Canada". Trump also threatened to tax Canada's auto exports into the United States if it did not agree to America's demands.

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By Monday morning "You'll have some news one way or the other", USA trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Fox News Sunday morning.

The U.S. source said common ground had been reached on all the most hard issues.

Mexico's chief NAFTA negotiator, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, tweeted that he had instructed his deputy, Juan Carlos Baker, to deliver the text of the new agreement to the Mexican Senate on Sunday night.

The US and Mexico were pushing to get the new deal through their legislatures before Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office on December 1.

Earlier in the evening, President Donald Trump was briefed on the almost finalized negotiations by U.S. Ambassador Robert Lighthizer and White House adviser Jared Kushner.

Canada also agreed to a quota of 2.6 million vehicles exported to the United States in the event that Trump imposes 25 per cent global autos tariffs on national security grounds, Canadian and U.S. auto industry sources said. "It's either going to be the text goes in with Mexico and the US, or the text goes in with all three countries".

"The ideal is a trilateral deal, but we're prepared for the possible need of a bilateral", he told Bloomberg News.

However, Canada has continued to impose high tariffs on dairy products as the country's politically powerful dairy farmers have resisted changes to the high tariffs that protect them from foreign competition.

"Lots of progress, but we're not there yet", MacNaughton told reporters.

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