NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

With the NAFTA talks at a critical juncture, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Thursday that she was skipping a summit in Europe to remain at the bargaining table.

Freeland had been scheduled to fly to Brussels for the start of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, which was to include an encounter with the newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Instead she got a phone call from Pompeo as he left Washington on Thursday, and she remained in his country’s capital for the marathon round aimed at getting a new continental trade deal.

”I think it’s important for us to keep on working at this,” said Freeland, whose parliamentary secretary Omar Alghabra is travelling to Brussels in her place.

”Very unfortunately, I have decided that I will not be able to attend the NATO … meeting.”

Related: Political heavyweights hit Washington in hunt for NAFTA deal

An all-out push is underway to get an agreement by next week, when U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs take effect, the U.S. trade czar is supposed to head to China and the procedural deadline approaches to get the current U.S. Congress to vote on a new NAFTA.

Yet the prospects are mired in uncertainty.

That unpredictability was reflected in contrasting observations by the two key Mexican ministers at Thursday’s talks.

When asked whether a deal by next week is possible, Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Videgaray said: ”I think it’s certainly possible … I think we are reasonably close. Certainly this has been a great week.”

His colleague Ildefonso Guajardo offered a counterpoint: ”Too many things. Too many issues to tackle. So we have to keep on working,” Guajardo told reporters in a separate news scrum.

”We’re trying to do our best, but there are still a lot of things pending. … We are (working) on all the topics. Auto rules, intellectual property. Everything is on the table.”

Autos talks have had far more progress than other key issues, although Mexico and the U.S. have clashed over a provision that favours auto production in high-wage countries.

Other irritants remain entrenched.

Canada and the U.S. clashed over a U.S. push to introduce a so-called sunset clause in the agreement. One Canadian briefed on the talks says there are also gulfs over a U.S. push to cancel the Chapter 19 dispute-settlement system, as well as divisions over intellectual property and public procurement.

When asked about the chance of a deal in the next few days Unifor union leader Jerry Dias was unequivocal: ”Less than zero per cent.” He said that aside from autos, the key issues had seen little movement.

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ground crews keep a close eye on Shovel Lake wildfire overnight

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Fire chases Burns Lake crews out of their own camp

Crews are having to leave after a wildfire reportedly overtook their sleeping quarters

Warning of extreme wildfire behaviour due to Shovel Lake blaze

Warning was issued for 583-square-kilometre blaze that has charred Fraser Lake to Fort St. James

RCMP work to ‘neutralize’ explosives on property near Shovel Lake wildfire

The explosives are on a Fraser Lake property that has been placed under an evacuation order

First responders, police march in funeral procession for Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

These are the highest-paid actresses of 2018

In its list released this week Forbes said all 10 earned a total of $186 million before tax

Safeway union urges rejection of mediator recommendations

Says mediator asks for too many concessions

To address peacock problem, B.C. city moves ahead on trapping plan

Surrey’s new bylaw focuses on ensuring people no longer feed the birds, ahead of relocation

Most Read