Published: Fri, September 14, 2018
Markets | By Erika Turner

Canada ready to allow USA dairy access in NAFTA talks

Canada ready to allow USA dairy access in NAFTA talks

Top U.S. and Canadian trade negotiators were set for a second day of talks on Thursday over a revised North American Free Trade Agreement after their subordinates worked late into the night to flesh out opportunities for a compromise deal.

Freeland and her counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left the bargaining table Friday without a deal following two weeks of what she has described as intense, but productive, negotiations.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, from US President Donald Trump, has unanimous domestic support for now but to keep a firm hold on power must wring concessions from an unwilling powerful dairy lobby in order to mollify Washington. A political deadline in Mexico to sign the deal by December 1, plus requirements in American law have put pressure on Canada to join the pact by the end of this month at the latest.

Under that system, the US exports about $500 million of dairy products duty free to Canada - three times what it imports from here - but faces tariffs of up to 300 per cent for anything more.

Freeland said both sides are "continuing to work very hard" in a recent press release, though she stresses that Canada will not sign a deal unless it is in the best interest of Canadians.

US 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. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow last week said milk was the main issue standing in the way of a NAFTA deal.

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Trump has notified Congress he intends to sign the trade deal reached last week with Mexico by the end of November, and officials said the text would be published by around October 1.

"We agreed that it would be useful to continue talking today, so we're back for more negotiations", Freeland told reporters as she entered the USTR offices in Washington.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland participates in an armchair discussion with journalist Masha Gessen, moderated by Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and Music, at the Women in the World Summit in Toronto, Sept. 10, 2018. Under U.S. trade negotiating laws, a text for that agreement is due by October 1.

Freeland said the memorials should help to add some context to the ongoing negotiations on free trade that were started at Trump's behest. "I think it will be gone".

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, a fixture at the NAFTA talks last week, was in Gander, N.L., to commemorate the role that town played on the day 17 years ago when the United States shut down its airspace, forcing countless passenger airliners to find refuge wherever they could.

Experts note that the desire to make a trade deal happen is influenced by upcoming political events, including the US midterm elections in November, a transition of presidential power in Mexico in December and next year's Canadian election.

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