NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

With the NAFTA talks at a critical juncture, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Thursday that she was skipping a summit in Europe to remain at the bargaining table.

Freeland had been scheduled to fly to Brussels for the start of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, which was to include an encounter with the newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Instead she got a phone call from Pompeo as he left Washington on Thursday, and she remained in his country’s capital for the marathon round aimed at getting a new continental trade deal.

”I think it’s important for us to keep on working at this,” said Freeland, whose parliamentary secretary Omar Alghabra is travelling to Brussels in her place.

”Very unfortunately, I have decided that I will not be able to attend the NATO … meeting.”

Related: Political heavyweights hit Washington in hunt for NAFTA deal

An all-out push is underway to get an agreement by next week, when U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs take effect, the U.S. trade czar is supposed to head to China and the procedural deadline approaches to get the current U.S. Congress to vote on a new NAFTA.

Yet the prospects are mired in uncertainty.

That unpredictability was reflected in contrasting observations by the two key Mexican ministers at Thursday’s talks.

When asked whether a deal by next week is possible, Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Videgaray said: ”I think it’s certainly possible … I think we are reasonably close. Certainly this has been a great week.”

His colleague Ildefonso Guajardo offered a counterpoint: ”Too many things. Too many issues to tackle. So we have to keep on working,” Guajardo told reporters in a separate news scrum.

”We’re trying to do our best, but there are still a lot of things pending. … We are (working) on all the topics. Auto rules, intellectual property. Everything is on the table.”

Autos talks have had far more progress than other key issues, although Mexico and the U.S. have clashed over a provision that favours auto production in high-wage countries.

Other irritants remain entrenched.

Canada and the U.S. clashed over a U.S. push to introduce a so-called sunset clause in the agreement. One Canadian briefed on the talks says there are also gulfs over a U.S. push to cancel the Chapter 19 dispute-settlement system, as well as divisions over intellectual property and public procurement.

When asked about the chance of a deal in the next few days Unifor union leader Jerry Dias was unequivocal: ”Less than zero per cent.” He said that aside from autos, the key issues had seen little movement.

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Column: protected areas – how much is enough?

Columnist Jim Hilton says attitudes need to change

RCMP arrest man after he attempts to flee

Quesnel RCMP arrested a man who is known to them July 20

Quesnel Paralympic swimmers score three medals apiece at Provincial Championships

Logan Godsoe won two silvers and a bronze while Hannah Trimble took home two bronzes and a silver

PHOTOS: Mother Nature didn’t rain on Billy Barker Days parade

Downpours held off for one of festival’s main events

Special Olympics celebrates 50th anniversary with Day of Inclusion

The Special Olympics have been in Quesnel for 25 years

BC Games: Day 2 comes to an end

Hundreds of medals have been handed out at the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

PHOTO GALLERY: BC Games Day 2

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

BC Wildfire update on 14 major Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

Most Read