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Canada: No Deal Yet With U.S. on NAFTA Update

Dairy central to disagreements

Canada’s Chrystia Freeland speaks with reporters Aug. 31, 2018. (Ellyn Ferguson/CQ Roll Call)
Canada’s Chrystia Freeland speaks with reporters Aug. 31, 2018. (Ellyn Ferguson/CQ Roll Call)

Canada’s top trade negotiator said Friday that talks to update NAFTA have yet to produce an agreement with the United States. The comments come just hours before the administration plans to notify Congress that it intends to sign a trade agreement in principle with Mexico.

“We are not there yet,” said Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland Friday morning.  “We are only going to sign a deal that is good for Canada. My job is to find the deal that works for Canada.″ 

The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office’s echoed Freeland’s comments.

“The negotiations between the United States and Canada are ongoing. There have been no concessions by Canada on agriculture,” said an agency spokesperson Friday morning. 

Canadian tariffs and quotas on U.S. dairy imports have been a sticking point in negotiations.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have urged the administration to include Canada, the top U.S. export market, in a revamped NAFTA agreement. The two neighbors do more than $2 billion a day in business, Freeland said.

The notification to Congress, required under Trade Promotion Authority, would start a 90-day clock that would set President Donald Trump’s signing date around Nov. 29, allowing outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign for his country before leaving office Dec. 1.

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Penn., and other senators have warned that TPA might not apply to a final trade agreement that does not include Canada. The law lays out negotiating principles, timetables for action for proposed and final trade agreements and provides protection for an agreement against congressional amendments and filibusters in the Senate. Under Trade Promotion Authority, the agreement can be approved by a simple majority in both chambers. Without that protection, the Senate could require a 60-vote threshold for approval.

Earlier this week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Congress would be notified that President Donald Trump plans to sign the U.S.-Mexico agreement in principle within 90 days, effectively setting a deadline for the Canadians to join it. Trump announced the tentative deal with Mexico on Aug. 27, saying it could replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.  

The agreement in principle with Mexico comes a year after the three trading partners launched renegotiation talks to update the trade pact, written before e-commerce existed.

Many senators who were in town earlier this week said they wanted Canada to be part of any deal. Lawmakers said it is difficult to judge the merits of the tentative U.S.-Mexico agreement because they had few details. 

Additionally, some lawmakers have already expressed doubts about the agreement in principle with Mexico.

Florida Sens. Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat, wrote Lighthizer on Tuesday saying the proposed U.S.-Mexico agreement-in-principle appears to not include language allowing growers in Florida and the Southeast to use seasonal data to pursue dumping and subsidy cases against Mexico.

The seasonal data would make it easier for Southern growers to cite financial injury from Mexican fruits and vegetables they allege are sold below fair market value.

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