Freeland, Lighthizer to meet on NAFTA after long night for negotiators

Canadian team is meeting at the Canadian Embassy to discuss the outcomes of conversations

September 6, 2018
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON—Canada’s negotiating team in Washington is assessing progress after a long night of talks with their U.S. counterparts to reach a deal on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Canadian team is meeting at the Canadian Embassy to discuss the outcomes of those lengthy conversations, sources said on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Their assessment will set the stage for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s return this afternoon to the United States Trade Representative headquarters for a face-to-face with meeting with her counterpart, Robert Lighthizer.

The two lead ministers on NAFTA held lengthy meetings in Washington on Wednesday—talks that Freeland characterized as productive and constructive.

Sources said both sides want a deal, but cautioned there remain disagreements on key issues, including dairy, culture and the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism.

Freeland told reporters at the close of her Wednesday meeting with Lighthizer that she couldn’t predict when the two sides would come to an agreement, saying nothing is settled until everything is settled.

Canada and the U.S. need to present an agreed-upon text to the U.S. Congress by Oct. 1 in order to join the deal the Trump administration signed with Mexico.

NAFTA negotiations, now in their 13th month, are key to determining the economic and trade relationship among the three North American countries, with many workers’ and industries’ prospects hanging in the balance.

President Donald Trump is threatening to move ahead on a deal that excludes Canada, but he also needs a win on trade ahead of midterm elections in November that will test his ability to keep control of Congress.

Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau traded barbs Wednesday, with each saying they were willing to walk away from NAFTA if they don’t get what they want.

The goal of this week’s talks is to reach a deal by Dec. 1 so Congress can give its approval to a revised three-country NAFTA before Mexico’s new president takes office.