President Donald Trump has approved the developments and the expectation is that an agreement will be announced on Sunday night, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian officials are working on the final touches. (more)
All day various media have been reporting on desperate, intense, and generally fast-moving last minute negotiations as a midnight deadline looms for Canada to join the U.S-Mexico trade agreement. Expect the critical details to be framed around “Side Letters”. Carve-outs within an agreement which remove the contentious aspects.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland abandoned a U.N. speech to rush back to Canada on Friday night. Tonight Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Ottawa to join the Canadian negotiating team in a series of back-and-forth conference calls between the U.S. and Canadian government. USTR Robert Lighthizer and trade envoy Jared Kushner have been briefing President Trump throughout the day.
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a late-night Cabinet meeting for Sunday amid signs that Canada and the United States were on the verge of sealing a deal to update NAFTA after frantic talks.
Negotiators from both sides spent two days talking by phone as they tried to settle a range of difficult issues such as access to Canada’s dairy market and U.S. tariffs.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has said Canada must sign on to the text of the updated North American Free Trade Agreement by a midnight Sunday deadline (0400 GMT Monday) or face exclusion from the pact. Washington has already reached a bilateral deal with Mexico, the third NAFTA member. (read more)
According to one report “side-letters” are being deployed to remove the conflicts within the trade disagreement. That’s the same approach within some provisions of the bilateral Mexico-U.S. deal.
Two nations sign a side letter allowing Washington to pursue tariffs and set quotas on aspects of disagreement. Side-Letters allow the U.S. to shape and modify concessions allowed within the main agreement over time. The Mexican government agreed to a side letter on the auto-sector, allowing them some insurance that tariffs inside the auto industry would not be a factor so long as a particular quota threshold was not crossed.
This could be, and is likely to be, the approach toward finding common ground with Canada.
Some people familiar with the talks credited Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner for helping smooth the path toward a deal. When it looked like negotiations had stalled or broken down due to friction between the U.S. and Canadian sides, Kushner kept talks going with aides close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, including Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, three people said.
Lighthizer and Kushner were at the USTR office in Washington on Sunday afternoon negotiating final details by conference call with the Canadians in Ottawa. U.S. officials have been keeping Trump in the loop on every step since Friday, two people said.