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September 25, 2018

Little Progress On U.S.-Canada Trade Talks

Canadian Foreign Minister Chyrstia Freeland was back in Washington, D.C. last week, trying to reach a deal with her U.S. counterparts to save the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Freeland left on Thursday without an agreement. Upon her departure, she said, “I chose my words carefully. Today we discussed some tough issues. The conversation was constructive.” According to several news reports, the negotiators are still facing several hurdles, including U.S. access to Canadian dairy markets, whether to preserve the dispute settlement mechanism in the current NAFTA agreement (the United States wants to get rid of it), and efforts to reduce Canadian access to the U.S. government procurement market. Canadian officials also reportedly want the Trump administration to withdraw threats to impose tariffs on auto imports.

There is no word on when discussions might restart.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have been hoping that the two countries would reach an agreement before Sept. 30, 2018. While that deadline is self-imposed, under current law, the White House must submit to Congress language for a trade agreement at least 60 days before the president may sign a deal. If the president wants to sign an updated NAFTA, with both Canada and Mexico included, by early December and have the Republican Congress vote on it, U.S. and Canadian officials likely would need to resolve their differences this week. Canadian negotiators have said U.S. politics will not influence their willingness to come to an agreement.

As a reminder, the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) has sent a letter to both Prime Minister Justin 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.