Former PM Mulroney urges Ottawa to make a deal on NAFTA

Sep 14, 2018, 20:38
Former PM Mulroney urges Ottawa to make a deal on NAFTA

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington on Tuesday for another round of talks to renew the NAFTA trade pact, an official said on Monday, as time runs short to seal a deal. They will reconvene on Friday morning.

Wednesday was the first day that negotiations between the two countries resumed after four intensive days of talks last week ended without a deal on Friday after the mood soured.

Brian Mulroney says Canada needs to put a little more water in its milk if it expects to make a new NAFTA deal with a hard-bargaining USA president whose political fortunes depend heavily on being able to declare victory for American dairy farmers.

Lighthizer faces pressure on dairy from U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who wants more Canadian access for milk producers from the northern part of his home state of NY.

"The mood is cooperative and it's positive".

Dairy has been singled out as a key hurdle, including on Friday when Larry Kudlow, a senior economic adviser to Trump, said in a Fox Business Network interview that what "continues to block the deal is m-i-l-k".

"I don't think President Trump will go to the mat over Chapter 19".

However, no specifics on the progress made towards reaching an agreement have been announced.

USA officials have said time is running out to agree on a text that can be signed by American, Canadian and Mexican leaders by November 30, before the current Mexican government leaves office.

The new NAFTA agreement that is taking shape will likely strengthen North America as a manufacturing base by making it more costly for automakers to import a large share of vehicle parts from outside the region.

He also warned that the US and Mexico would move forward bilaterally without Canada.

Chapter 19 provides that an arbitration court decides on trade disputes between the two countries. It also wants significant new access to Canada's sheltered dairy industry and seeks the relaxing of foreign ownership restrictions on Canadian media companies.

Canada wants a permanent exemption from Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, and removal of the threat of auto tariffs.

Canada has encouraged overproduction and flooded export markets for milk proteins used in cheese and yogurt, hurting U.S. dairy farmers, Perdue said in an interview aired on Sunday on C-SPAN television.

Dairy farmers, who number about 11,000, have an outsized influence in Canadian politics, being concentrated in the vote-rich provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

"To continually undermine the industry is absolutely devastating and it weakens our industry overall", said David Wiens, vice president of Dairy Farmers of Canada. But a deal without Canada has virtually no chance of being passed, Mulroney said. "And if we don't sign the deal, it's because no deal is actually better than a bad deal for Canada".

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