25 August 2019

Canadian minister headed to US in free trade push

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Canada’s foreign minister will travel to Washington later this week in an attempt to speed up negotiations on a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to media reports Wednesday. reports citing AP.

Chrystia Freeland will meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, although it is not known if she will touch base with Mexican trade officials who are also in Washington to push for a new agreement.

President Donald Trump is anxious to get an agreement-in-principle deal with the three countries in place before the Summit of the Americas conference in Peru later this month. Time is also short with general elections in Mexico in July and congressional polls in the fall in the U.S. that could affect negotiations if a deal is not ratified before the voting dates.

But those familiar with the talks are not optimistic a deal could be reached quickly because only seven of 30 negotiating points are near to, or have been, successfully concluded.

“I would be very skeptical about any substantive deal that could be announced next week,” said Laura Dawson of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington.

“I understand that the U.S. would like to be able to make an announcement, but the level of progress on major issues just doesn’t warrant being able to claim victory in many areas … all the hard work is still down the road.”

Freeland said last week that Canada has been “very intensively” working on NAFTA, while Lighthizer said, also last week, that he was “optimistic we can get something done, in principle, in the next little bit”.

The head negotiator for Mexico, Kenneth Smith Ramos, echoed Freeland’s words when he said Tuesday that talks were entering an “intensive” period.

And despite the flurry of activity surrounding a new deal, Trump continues to threaten to tear it up, with the latest broadside coming Easter Sunday when he said if Mexico does not beef up its border security he may pull the U.S. out of NAFTA.

2018.04.04 / 21:44
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