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Trump pushes for NAFTA deal to be reached within weeks

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump talked by telephone yesterday and agreed to push forward on a conclusion to the NAFTA talks.

The Canadian Press reports, “What [Trudeau] heard directly from the president echoed public remarks from Trump’s administration: U.S. trade czar [Robert Lighthizer] recently said he wants a new NAFTA concluded within weeks, because of upcoming elections in the different countries. The U.S. has said further delays might imperil the negotiations, with an outsider candidate leading polls for Mexico’s July 1 election, and with Trump’s party in danger of losing control of the U.S. Congress.”

The article highlights, “NAFTA talks might now enter an intense phase.”

Four day ago, Trump said, “We’re going to hold off the tariff on those two countries to see whether or not we’re able to make the deal on NAFTA.” The strong implication in his statement was that the US would hold off on damaging steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico pending the outcome of the NAFTA talks.

Unifor president Jerry Dias calls this “economic blackmail”. We agree.

Remarkably, despite the clear implication in Trump’s statement, Trudeau says, “We don’t link together the tariffs and the negotiations with NAFTA.” Another news report quotes Trudeau saying, “I explained directly to the president that moving forward with tariffs on steel and aluminum will not help us with NAFTA. It will in fact harm those negotiations. They’re two separate issues.”

We are also dismayed – given the likelihood that NAFTA critic Andrés Manuel López Obrador will win the Mexican presidential election on July 1 and be sworn into office on December 1 – that Trump wants to conclude the NAFTA talks with the current NAFTA friendly Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto before the election – and that Trudeau agrees with him.

Yesterday, Trudeau stated, “We recognize that the American side is eager to get forward motion on NAFTA. We are too. So we’re glad to do it.”

The Canadian Press article adds, “Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will be in Washington for three days this week — meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and key members of Congress.”

Lighthizer and Canadian ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton have suggested a NAFTA 2.0 deal in principle could be reached by early-April.

The 8th round of NAFTA talks is expected to take place in late-March or early-April in Washington, DC.

The Council of Canadians is calling for a better NAFTA, one that replaces the current deal with an agreement that ends the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism that has been repeatedly used to undermine environmental protections, removes energy proportionality (rather than expanding it) and commits to a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050, removes water as a service, investment and a good and instead recognizes it as a human right along with the United Nations obligations to “respect, protect and fulfill” that right, and that enshrines the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the right to free, prior and informed consent.

To sign our petition on NAFTA, please click here.