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Canadian and U.S. negotiators meet in Washington for NAFTA talks, Chrystia Freeland arrives late

Earlier today Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland met with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Jared Kushner in Washington D.C. to negotiate a potential trade deal before the Friday deadline.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law played a crucial role in negotiations with the Mexican government.

Jared, as a trusted advisor to POTUS, has seen his influence grow in the NAFTA trade discussions because POTUS sees him as someone who will ensure the president’s tough stance is represented at the table and monitor the talks to ensure they come to an amicable, but fair, resolution,” said Chris Garcia, the former deputy director at the Commerce Department.

Chrystia Freeland arrived late to the negotiations earlier today but described the two and a half hour meeting as “productive”.

“We had another good meeting today, officials are engaged now very intensively” said the Foreign Minister.

Prime Minister and U.S. President comment

While speaking in Northern Ontario, the Prime Minister insisted that while there is a “good possibility” that a fair conclusion to the talks will be achieved by Friday, Canada is “standing firm” on certain concessions.

“I said from the very beginning that no NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal”  said Justin Trudeau.

At the same time, President Donald Trump spoke optimistically about the deal’s progress saying “we’re probably on good track”. The President said he had spoken to Justin Trudeau on the phone, insisting that “He called me, I didn’t call him.”

“I think Canada very much wants to make the deal. I think it’s very good for Canada if they do,” said Donald Trump.

Points of tension

Two major places where Canada and the U.S. have butt heads are on dairy and a portion of the agreement entitled Chapter 19.

The Prime Minister said that ending “supply management” is not on the table and unacceptable for Canada. However, political experts have noted that Canada has wiggle room on opening the quotas and rulings surrounding products entering into the country which would be perceived as fairer to US dairy businesses.

Quebec, a province in which the dairy lobby is particularly prominent is currently facing a provincial election.The Quebec Liberal Party leader Phillippe Couillard warned the federal government of political consequences if any concessions are made on supply management.

An Angus Reid poll released earlier today shows that Canadians are split on the Supply Management issue.

Canada’s largest dairy-producing provinces are divided on ending supply management as part of trade talks, with roughly one-in-three in Quebec (35%) and Ontario (34%) preferring to keep the program, and similar numbers preferring to end it (39% in Ontario; 32% in Quebec)” says the Angus Reid website.

Regarding Chapter 19, a section which is meant to determine how trade disputes are resolved, particularly around softwood lumber and issues like the bombardier/boeing conflict. Canada wants to keep the chapter strong, while Americans insist that it undermines U.S. sovereignty and negotiating capabilities.

On a brighter side, Mexico as agreed to make concession on its auto industry. “Major concessions put forward by Mexico” said auto union leader Jerry Diaz.

Talks continue

Talks will continue throughout the day between U.S. and Canadian negotiators. Chrystia Freeland is currently meeting with U.S. ambassador Lighthizer and Mr. Kushner. The Foreign Affairs Minister has promised to make another progress announcement in the coming few hours once talks conclude.

Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

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