NAFTA talks hold Foreign Affairs Minister in Washington, substitute heads to NATO summit

NAFTA talks keeping Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, sends substitute to NATO summit

With the NAFTA talks at a critical juncture, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Thursday that she was skipping a summit in Europe to remain at the bargaining table.

Freeland had been scheduled to fly to Brussels for the start of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, which was to include an encounter with the newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Instead she got a phone call from Pompeo as he left Washington on Thursday, and she remained in his country’s capital for the marathon round aimed at getting a new continental trade deal.

”I think it’s important for us to keep on working at this,” said Freeland, whose parliamentary secretary Omar Alghabra is travelling to Brussels in her place.

”Very unfortunately, I have decided that I will not be able to attend the NATO … meeting.”

Related: Political heavyweights hit Washington in hunt for NAFTA deal

An all-out push is underway to get an agreement by next week, when U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs take effect, the U.S. trade czar is supposed to head to China and the procedural deadline approaches to get the current U.S. Congress to vote on a new NAFTA.

Yet the prospects are mired in uncertainty.

That unpredictability was reflected in contrasting observations by the two key Mexican ministers at Thursday’s talks.

When asked whether a deal by next week is possible, Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Videgaray said: ”I think it’s certainly possible … I think we are reasonably close. Certainly this has been a great week.”

His colleague Ildefonso Guajardo offered a counterpoint: ”Too many things. Too many issues to tackle. So we have to keep on working,” Guajardo told reporters in a separate news scrum.

”We’re trying to do our best, but there are still a lot of things pending. … We are (working) on all the topics. Auto rules, intellectual property. Everything is on the table.”

Autos talks have had far more progress than other key issues, although Mexico and the U.S. have clashed over a provision that favours auto production in high-wage countries.

Other irritants remain entrenched.

Canada and the U.S. clashed over a U.S. push to introduce a so-called sunset clause in the agreement. One Canadian briefed on the talks says there are also gulfs over a U.S. push to cancel the Chapter 19 dispute-settlement system, as well as divisions over intellectual property and public procurement.

When asked about the chance of a deal in the next few days Unifor union leader Jerry Dias was unequivocal: ”Less than zero per cent.” He said that aside from autos, the key issues had seen little movement.

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

New Langley mall owners have multi-use vision in mind

H&M opens in Willowbrook Thursday, offset some of the space left vacant by the departure of Sears.

Trinity Western University changes controversial covenant

Pledge forbidding sexual intimacy outside of marriage to be optional at Langley university: report

Legendary umpire retiring after 40 years

Aldergrove’s Gord Hanly caps an outstanding 40 year career

Spontaneous pencil shopping at WalMart leads Langley woman to art career

For the first time ever, Brooke deBruin will be displaying her art publicly at Arts Alive.

Beer garden incorporated into Langley’s 25th annual Arts Alive

More entertainment, more vendors, more food, and a new beverage station added to Saturday’s festival.

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Column: Mother orca’s display of grief sends powerful message

The grief of this orca mother may not be visible anymore, but we must not forget.

Seven people with ties to Red Scorpions gang arrested in B.C. drug bus

Delta police have secured 94 charges against seven people, including drug and firearm offences

Second measles scare this summer at YVR

An infected traveller flew out of Vancouver’s airport three times

Judge OKs Weinstein suit, cites casting couch’s history

Actress Kadian Noble can sue disgraced Hollywood mogul for violating sex trafficking laws

Employers to raise salaries 2.6% on average next year: report

Firm points to factors such possibility of more trade protectionism, rising interest rates

PM Trudeau and federal ministers to meet on Vancouver Island

Cabinet retreat will be held in Nanaimo from Aug. 21-23

Child, 3, survives fall from 3rd-floor window with no major injuries

Abbotsford Police Department spokesperson says toddler lucky to be alive after fall of that height

Most Read