Washington : US and Canadian negotiators pushed ahead in grinding talks to rescue the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Thursday, but a few stubborn issues stood in the way of a deal, including dairy quotas, protection for Canadian media companies, and how to resolve future trade disputes. A US source familiar with the discussions in Washington said it was still unclear whether the two sides could bridge the gaps or whether President Donald Trump will opt for a Mexico-only bilateral trade deal.
“We’re down to three issues: Chapter 19, the cultural issues and dairy. We’ve created leverage and driven Canada to the table,” the source said. “Part of our problem is that Canada has been backsliding on its commitments (on dairy).” NAFTA’s Chapter 19 governs how disputes are resolved. Trump has set a deadline for a deal this week, prompting aides to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to work well into the evening on Thursday to find ways to move forward.
Bloomberg News cited a Canadian government official as saying that a deal was not expected to be reached this week. “We are making good progress,” Freeland told reporters following a short meeting with Lighthizer at the USTR offices on Thursday evening. She repeated her earlier statements that the day’s discussions were “constructive and productive” amid an atmosphere of “goodwill on both sides.” She declined to discuss specific issues under negotiation but said talks would resume on Friday.
The Republican chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, a powerful voice in Congress on trade, told reporters that differences remained between the two sides over Canada’s dairy quota regime, a trade dispute resolution settlement procedure and “other longstanding issues.” Trump administration charges that Canada discriminates against US dairy exports. It wants to end the Chapter 19 arbitration panels for resolving dispute over anti-dumping tariffs.