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September 17, 2018

Capitol Hill Digs In: Trade Agreement Must Include Canada

At the beginning of last week, it was reported that Canadian Foreign Minister Chyrstia Freeland was going to be in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to continue negotiations to try to save the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Freeland didn’t end up making the trip, however, sending members of her staff instead. Insisting that talks have not ended in stalemate, Freeland explained that she and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided that in order to have another productive conversation, it would be best to give our officials some time to hold technical discussions.”

Even though they have reached a tentative deal with U.S. negotiators, Mexican officials continued to say they want a trilateral deal that includes Canada. Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardotold reporters last week that having Canada would be a “great asset.” Guajardo also said, however, that if Canada can’t reach a deal, Mexico will need to move forward with U.S. on its own, but right now his team is working to achieve a three-party deal.

On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, lawmakers are standing firm in their belief that any agreement between the United States and Mexico must include Canada. Democrats on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer asking how the Trump administration will proceed if it does not reach a deal with Canada. The letter, which can be found here, noted the administration’s own NAFTA negotiating objectives “were specific to a trilateral deal and the [Office of the USTR] never released any negotiating objectives regarding a bilateral deal with either Mexico or Canada.”

As a reminder, the Metals Service Center Institute has sent a letter to both Prime Minister Trudeau and President Donald Trump asking them to keep lines of communication open until there is a deal between the two countries and Mexico.

MSCI also encourages its members to discuss their opinions about the issue with lawmakers. The Canadian government continues to operate a webpage for stakeholders to submit their views on NAFTA. MSCI members in the United States who are interested in weighing in on NAFTA deliberations should contact their representatives in the U.S. House and Senate to let them know how altering or eliminating NAFTA would affect their businesses, employees, and customers. Click here for contact information for every member of the House and here for senators.

MSCI’s comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative regarding NAFTA reauthorization are here. Also of interest: the Congressional Research Service released an overview of NAFTA modernization discussions at the end of July. The report includes a review of all of the issues being discussed.