US ‘very, very close’ to Mexico-only NAFTA deal: White House

Marco Green
September 22, 2018

There is just over a week to go before a USA -imposed October 1 deadline to publish the text of a deal to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the United States and Canada have still not agreed on terms, Hassett told Fox News Channel.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland arrives at the Office Of The United States Trade Representative in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.

NAFTA talks have probably missed the latest in a string of deadlines, leaving all eyes on the United States over what will happen next.

"We discussed some tough issues today, the atmosphere continues to be constructive, and we continue to work hard towards a deal", Freeland told reporters.

Asked for a reaction to Hassett's comments, a Freeland spokesman pointed to her repeated comments that Canada "will not be driven by a deadline but by reaching a good deal".

"Bob and I joke sometimes that we could switch chairs, we know each other's positions so well", Freeland said this month in between meetings with Lighthizer, as quoted in a profile by The New York Times Friday.

The battle over potential auto tariffs is one of the final core disputes between the USA and Canada as NAFTA talks head down to the wire, according to people familiar with the situation. It's not entirely clear how long it will take to put an agreement into legal text; a deal reached next week could conceivably still meet the September 30 deadline.

Mexico's incoming government will pursue a bilateral deal with Canada if talks to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement falter, Mexican president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday. The U.S. has threatened to proceed without Canada if a deal can't be reached. A USTR spokeswoman did not immediately respond to queries about Lighthizer's United Nations meeting schedule.

Both sides fail to reach an agreement about NAFTA on the last day of the Canadian foreign minister's visit to the U.S.

Of course, issues like Canadian dairy protection and potential auto-tariffs remain topics of disagreement. Exemptions were once held up as a carrot, or incentive for Canada to strike a deal. However, the fear among Canadians is that they'd sign a new NAFTA deal and see the Trump administration swiftly apply auto tariffs anyhow, devastating the economy, one of the officials said, adding there's little value in a trade deal with that kind of uncertainty. But if they don't we'll just move ahead with Mexico and we'll get Canada fixed a little bit later.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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