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Third round of NAFTA 2.0 talks to take place in Canada, Sept. 23-27

The first round of NAFTA 2.0 talks took place at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington, DC. It has not yet been made public where the talks will be in Canada.

The third round of talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will take place in Canada on September 23-27.

The first round of talks (August 16-20) just concluded in Washington, DC, the second round will take place September 1-5 in Mexico City, and given the choice of locations so far, it might be expected that the third round in late-September will take place in Ottawa (though that has not yet been confirmed). A fourth round will take place in the United States.

A statement from the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico highlights, “While a great deal of effort and negotiation will be required in the coming months, Canada, Mexico and the United States are committed to an accelerated and comprehensive negotiation process…” Overall, their goal appears to be to have the renegotiation completed by early 2018 (prior to the general election in Mexico).

The Canadian Press reports, “The initial round was heavy on introductory sessions and schedule-setting. But it also touched substantive issues that revealed possible irritants ahead. Among the two-dozen-plus topics discussed so far were auto-parts rules, cutting edge pharmaceuticals, and labour.” The Globe and Mail adds, “In the first round, insiders said, American and Canadian officials were quick to table proposed text for a rewritten NAFTA, while their Mexican counterparts largely held back. Officials covered at least 27 subjects split between several teams of negotiators hunkered down in more than a dozen rooms on the ground floor of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, according to a schedule of the talks obtained by The Globe.”

News reports indicate:

1. Auto – “On auto parts, the U.S. surprised its allies on Day 1 by hinting it might favour a Made In America-style content quota. The statement on that from U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer was vague and, according to sources, was not followed up by any specific numbers being tabled by the U.S. side in the initial round. However, the idea was swiftly opposed by Canada, Mexico and the auto industry.”

2. Pharmaceuticals – “On pharmaceuticals, the U.S. has also proposed a 12-year patent-style protection for cutting-edge biologics medicines, sources say. This is significantly higher than the protections in Canada and Mexico, would drive up prices, and could be an irritant if the U.S. sticks to it.”

3. Labour – “A report in Inside U.S. Trade said Canada has also presented demands on labour rights that would force the U.S. to sign all the International Labour Organization conventions. That’s generally been a non-starter for the U.S.”

4. Climate change – “A Canadian government official speaking on background told the Star Sunday that the U.S. and Canada are at loggerheads over the inclusion of climate change measures in a new NAFTA agreement, which is a stated priority of the Liberal government. The official added, however, that the Americans haven’t said anything to indicate the disagreement is irreconcilable at this point.”

5. Procurement, Chapter 19 – “Other areas of divergence include an American push to create Buy American rules for government contracts in the U.S., while opening up these bids to U.S. companies in Canada and Mexico, and remove the state-to-state dispute resolution mechanism—which Canada strongly favours—from the agreement. “

6. Supply management – “The three sides also have not yet discussed the topic of Canada’s supply-management system for milk, eggs and poultry, sources said. Ottawa agreed under both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its deal with the European Union to allow a percentage of foreign-produced dairy into Canada’s protected market.”

The Toronto Star also highlights, “Looking ahead to the second round of talks, Canadian officials are expected to return to Ottawa and update various stakeholders on how the negotiations are going. Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview on the weekend that he expects to get a briefing from government officials on Wednesday.” There has been no indication from the Trudeau government about a briefing for the broader public.

The Council of Canadians is calling for the removal of the energy proportionality provision, the Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement provision, and water as a good, service and investment from the agreement. To add your voice to these demands, please click here.