Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator says just minimal progress has actually been made in revamping the continental trade pact.
Steve Verheul states that’s due to the fact that the talks are moving “a bit too fast.”
The seventh round of NAFTA talks is set to start later on this month in Mexico City. Considerable distinctions stay in between the working out groups on cars, a sunset stipulation and the investor-state disagreement resolution mechanism, and on U.S. demands for higher market access to Canada’s safeguarded dairy industry.
The NAFTA renegotiation job made it through the 6th round of talks in Montreal, with U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer stating adequate progress had been made to push forward regardless of American discontentment with some Canadian propositions.
Lighthizer also called a wide-ranging complaint filed by Canada before the World Trade Organization a “massive attack” against U.S. trading practices.
Canada had concerns of its own with what the U.S. was putting on the table, Verheul said– notably a Buy American component that would limit how many public contracts can be won by its free-trade neighbors.
The U.S. has proposed limiting Canada and Mexico to one dollar of contracts for every dollar in contracts granted by Canada and Mexico to American companies — an idea Canada and Mexico both have branded a non-starter.
The Buy American proposal may well be the worst ever put forth in a trade negotiation, said Verheul, who noted that U.S. negotiators seem to be hamstrung at the table by White House expectations.
He also said the worst possible outcome would be for the United States to go it alone– a scenario that Verheul warned would weaken North America, allowing other countries and regions to take easy advantage.
Canada will stay at the negotiating table for as long as it takes, Verheul said. It’s impossible to predict the next move of a notoriously unpredictable president, he warned– a move that could include a NAFTA pullout.
Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump complained about Canadian trade practices and threatened an undefined international tax, reviving fears of new American import penalties– a fear the White House has since played down.
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