U.S. Alerts Congress of Mexico Deal, Says Canada Can Join On

Can a trade deal with Canada be salvaged? ( MGN Image )

(Bloomberg) - President Donald Trump said he plans to pursue a trade deal with Mexico and possibly Canada even as talks with the U.S.’s northern neighbor stalled just hours before a deadline, leaving the future of a revised Nafta in doubt.

The White House notified Congress on Friday that it planned to sign a deal with Mexico in 90 days and would include Canada “if it is willing.” U.S. negotiations with Canada will resume Wednesday after four days of intense negotiations in Washington ended without a deal. The White House wanted Ottawa to sign onto the preliminary agreement it struck with Mexico on Monday to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Over the next few weeks, Congress and cleared advisers from civil society and the private sector will be able to examine the agreement. They will find it has huge benefits for our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses,” U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been in Washington since Tuesday in an accelerated push to reach an agreement. The Trump administration had given Canada until Friday to join on to its deal with Mexico or risk being left out.

Good Deal

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said he’ll only sign an agreement that’s right for Canada. Trudeau reiterated his government wouldn’t concede to U.S. demands to dismantle its dairy system, known as supply management. Talks were also hung up on U.S. demands to eliminate dispute-resolution panels that Ottawa considers essential, two Canadian officials said Friday.

“We know that a win-win-win agreement is within reach,” Freeland told reporters at a briefing at the Canadian embassy in Washington after that talks wrapped up on Friday. She declined to identify specific issues that are holding up an agreement.

“Canada will only sign a deal that’s a good deal for Canada, we are very very clear about that,” she said.

Trump has been pushing to get a new Nafta approved under a process known as fast-track authority that allows him to seek a simple yes-or-no vote in Congress on trade deals, as long as his administration clears certain procedural hurdles.

Under fast-track rules, Trump must notify Congress 90 days before signing the deal. The White House set a deadline for Friday because it wanted to notify Congress in time for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign the deal before his successor takes power Dec. 1.

The administration had constructive talks with Canada this week and is still hopeful the nation will join the deal with the U.S. and Mexico, a senior administration official told reporters Friday. The U.S. intends the new deal to completely replace the current Nafta, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Even if Canada doesn’t join, the administration believes it can satisfy Congress’s requirements using the fast-track route, the official said.

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