WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leading NAFTA negotiators from Canada and the United States raised their bargaining tails on Thursday to resolve the latest differences and keep their Mexican counterparts on standby to return to talks soon.
Despite some contentious issues that were still on the table, the increasingly positive tone overshadowed Canada's sharp criticism of the US over the past few weeks and hoped that the year-long talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement would soon be closed trilateral agreement.
"Canada will eventually make a deal, it could be until Friday or it could be within a certain time," said US President Donald Trump to Bloomberg Television. "I think we are close to an agreement."
Talks were already underway on a technical level, and Mexican Minister of Economic Affairs Ildefonso Guajardo was soon to resume talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland. Later on Thursday, people familiar with the trial said.
President Donald Trump said in a Bloomberg interview, "Canada will eventually make a deal, it may be until Friday or it may be within a time frame," Trump said. "I think we are close to an agreement."
Negotiations have entered a crucial phase this week after the United States and Mexico announced Monday a bilateral agreement that paved the way for Canada's 24-year old agreement, which underpins over $ 1
The developing NAFTA deal would likely strengthen North America's manufacturing base by making it more expensive for automakers to import a large portion of their vehicle parts from outside the region. The most controversial subject areas automotive content could accelerate a shift in parts manufacturing from China.
A new chapter dominating the digital economy, along with stronger intellectual property, labor, and environmental rights, could also benefit US companies and help Trump fulfill its campaign promise to create more American jobs.
Trump has set a Friday deadline for the three countries to reach an agreement that would allow Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign him before leaving office at the end of November. Under US law, Trump must wait 90 days before signing the pact.
The US president has warned he might try to proceed with an agreement with Mexico alone and levy tariffs on Canadian-made cars if Ottawa does not come aboard, even though US legislators do not consider the ratification of a bilateral agreement just explained.
MILK, DISPUTE RESOLUTION
One controversy in Canada is the United States' attempt to abandon the Chapter 19 dispute settlement mechanism that prevents the United States from prosecuting anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. Lighthizer said on Monday that Mexico has agreed to eliminate the mechanism.
Trump also wants a NAFTA deal that eliminates milk tariffs of up to 300 percent, which he argues to harm US farmers, an important political base for Republicans.
But all of Washington's concessions by Ottawa will shake Canadian dairy farmers, who have an overwhelming influence on Canadian politics, with their concentration in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.
"Ultimately, we have big issues that still need to be resolved," said Jerry Dias, head of influential Canadian union Unifor. "Either we will be trading partners or we will fight."
Reporting by Julie Gordon and Sharay Angulo; Additional reporting by David Lawder; Writing by Denny Thomas and David Lawder; Editing by Peter Cooney, Susan Thomas and Lisa Shumaker