Canada reports progress on NAFTA, says ‘we’re not there yet’

OTTAWA/MEXICO CITY: Mexico, Canada and the United States have made good progress in their bid to modernise the NAFTA trade pact but still have work to do, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
Freeland also said she would be flying to Washington for a meeting on Thursday with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is pushing hard for a quick deal in principle to finish before a July 1 presidential election in Mexico.
The three members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could announce by mid-April the outlines of a settlement that would likely tackle the key issue of autos content while leaving other contentious chapters to be dealt with later, say sources familiar with the matter. “We’re making good progress on NAFTA … having said that, we’re not there yet,” Freeland told business executives in Winnipeg. The meeting was televised.
One of the biggest chapters to be resolved is a US demand that the North American content of vehicles made in NAFTA nations be increased to 85 per cent from 62.5 per cent.
A Mexican source said US negotiators had shown “some flexibility” on the issue, adding that the three nations were now looking at alternatives.
Only six of the roughly 30 chapters have been closed and wide differences remain on topics such as dispute resolution and government procurement. Canadian officials do not see how the three nations can close the remaining chapters in the next two weeks, a source familiar with Canada’s negotiating position said on Wednesday.
“There’s a possibility they could come up with a symbolic agreement in principle that signalled they had reached a consensus on five or six key issues,” said the source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. Chief negotiators will meet in Washington next week and there are no current plans for an eighth round of talks. — Reuters