Canada PM Trudeau eyeing Mexico trip in October amid NAFTA talks

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 16, 2017

A US trade official who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity said the U.S.is seeking a "more balanced, reciprocal trade agreement that supports high-paying jobs for Americans and grows the USA economy".

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said NAFTA had "failed many, many Americans" and Trump was not interested in merely tweaking the 23-year-old pact, and would seek major changes that would increase North American and U.S. content for autos and strong labor standards.

Trump has called NAFTA "the worst trade deal in history", and one that has unfairly swollen the US trade deficit with Mexico while allowing manufacturing jobs to migrate there. "Many people believe the number is much, much bigger than that".

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told the worldwide trade committee on Monday that her government is "fully committed" to defending supply management during NAFTA talks.

Raymond Bachand, the lead trade negotiator for the Canadian province of Quebec, said he was not anxious by Lighthizer's remarks that the USA would not accept minor changes to the agreement. She began by displaying photos of American and Mexican firefighters who helped fight a forest fire in B.C., saying she would keep their spirit of continental friendship in mind through the negotiations.

Udzbinac said exporting equipment to the U.S.is "cumbersome" and he would like to see fewer crossing requirements, ideally something along the lines of those in the European Union.

Economist Jayson Myers, former CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters says the USA relies on a range of Canadian technology to support areas like infrastructure, and there is a risk the US will want to change the rules of origin and content requirements, affecting tariffs and the bottom line.

Trump made criticizing trade agreements a central part of his campaign, and his criticisms of NAFTA were at times grandiose: he called it the "worst deal ever made in the history of the world" and "a one-way highway out of the United States".

Canada wants any new agreement to include easier cross-border movement of in-demand workers, such as those in the high-tech sector.

Lighthizer acknowledged that "many Americans have benefited from NAFTA", referring specifically to the importance of the Canadian and Mexican markets for US farmers and ranchers. But he said the deal had harmed "countless" others, pointing to factory workers.

And he refused to concede that trade with Canada was balanced. In doing so, he opted to give a 10-year count of the deficit - that figure is at $365 billion.

Canada PM Trudeau eyeing Mexico trip in October amid NAFTA talks

The remarks opened the first round of the multi-round negotiations that the three countries are ambitiously attempting to conclude by the beginning of 2018.

This round will run from Wednesday to Sunday. Mexico is keen to maintain preferential access for its goods and services to the United States and Canada, where almost 85 percent of its exports are shipped.

The negotiations are happening at the insistence of Trump, who campaigned on a promise to alter or terminate the deal.

"American politicians have been promising to renegotiate NAFTA for years, but today, President Trump is going to fulfill those promises", he said.

A senior USA trade official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters Tuesday that the talks will begin with each country submitting large quantities of proposed text for a revised agreement. Thirty-six per cent said they were motivated by "favourable free trade agreements".

Trump wants a victory on NAFTA.

The dairy sector was excluded from the original NAFTA deal in 1994, but Canada's supply management system for dairy has always been a point of contention. US producers get most of their timber from private land, where costs are higher.

Trump has made "Buy American" one of his key mantras, endorsed a proposal to cut legal immigration in half, and rapidly slashed environmental regulations.

Zoltan van Heyningen, executive director of the U.S. Lumber Coalition, said that Canada has insisted on exceptions to a straight quota deal that could lift Canadian producers' market share well above its current level. None of Trump's eight tweets on Wednesday morning was about NAFTA.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said NAFTA stood as model of North American integration and the talks should aim to strengthen the continent's trade ties.

"Since its enforcement, NAFTA has been more than a trade agreement".

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