Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Canada’s race against time with the US to reach a NAFTA deal

Canada’s race against time with the US to reach a NAFTA deal

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland speaks at a press conference at the Embassy of Canada in Washington. AFP

Canada’s race against time with the US to reach a NAFTA deal

WILL Canada and the US thaw their unprecedented diplomatic chill and reach a deal to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement by a US-imposed Sunday deadline? Ottawa is certainly working hard on it.

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator, opted to push back her planned Saturday speech before the UN General Assembly until Monday so she could concentrate on trade matters.

Those talks are now in a crucial phase. Negotiators are racing against the clock because of a US-set deadline.

The US and Mexico want to push their deal through their respective legislatures before Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador takes office on December 1.

In the US, Congress must have the text of the deal by Sunday if a 60-day review period is to be respected.

In a surprise twist, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Friday that Washington and Ottawa had told him they could reach a compromise on an updated trilateral agreement within “48 hours”.

“For the first time, we’re seeing a real effort by both sides,” Guajardo added.

US and Canadian negotiators were expected to work all weekend via secure video link, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Saturday, citing sources in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration and on the US industry side.

Tough talks

US President Donald Trump has been pushing for a complete overhaul of the 25-year-old continental trade deal, which he says has been a “rip-off” for the United States.

In August – more than a year into the negotiations – the US and Mexico announced they had reached a two-way deal, after breaking away for bilateral talks on their outstanding issues.

But the ensuing talks to incorporate Canada have stumbled.

According to the negotiators, Canada’s insistence on a trade dispute provision and its protected dairy sector are the last major sticking points.

Ottawa is also seeking assurances that the United States will not, after signing a new NAFTA deal, turn around and hit Canada with punitive auto tariffs.

Tempers flared this week on both sides as the end-of-month deadline approached.

“We’re not getting along with their negotiators,” Trump said Wednesday of Canada.

Trudeau fired back: “We won’t sign a bad deal for Canada.”

But on Saturday, the Globe and Mail reported progress, citing industry and government sources saying that Canada had made “significant concessions” on the dairy issue in order to make a deal possible.

One US industry source in contact with US negotiators told the Canadian paper that Washington was “serious” about enforcing the Sunday deadline, having repeatedly missed other cut-off dates during the tortuous negotiations.

If no deal is made, US tariffs on Canada’s auto sector – one of its largest industrial sectors – could quickly be put in place, the same source said, though a Canadian official insisted that Washington had made no new threats on tariffs.

Trudeau met in recent days with Lopez Obrador, who promised not to turn his back on Canada, while also saying he was happy with the deal he had reached with Washington.

The politics are high-stakes on both sides of the US-Canadian border.

Trump needs to look strong heading into the November midterm elections, while Trudeau does not want to be seen as caving before next year’s general election.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • ‘Beware of WhatsApp fraudsters’

    The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned members of the public who use WhatsApp to vigilantly guard against a new trick employed by hackers that involves the use of six-digit codes sent to potential victims via the popular messaging app. The ministry said hackers could