Canadian officials are running out of time to join the U.S. and Mexico in a trade deal to replace current North American Free Trade Agreement terms, according to an administration source this week.
In a Fox News interview Friday morning, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett pointed to an Oct. 1 deadline in the ongoing negotiations.
“We’re still talking to Canada, and we’re getting very, very close to the deadline where we’re going to have to move ahead with Mexico all by themselves,” he said.
The Trump administration is fast-tracking the new terms to finalize an agreement before the end of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s term.
There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal. If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out. Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2018
Some lawmakers see Canada’s inclusion in a new deal as vital to the preservation of NAFTA framework.
Nieto’s administration has been willing to negotiate with the U.S. and Canada, but leftist president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would likely be less open to renegotiated terms.
Hassett placed the onus on Canadian officials he believes are refusing to negotiate in good faith.
“I’m a little surprised that the Canadians haven’t signed up yet,” he said. “They’ve got a really, really good deal that they should be participating in. … I worry that politics in Canada is trumping common sense, because there’s a good deal that was designed by Mexico and the U.S. to appeal to Canada, and they’re not signing up.”
Canadian officials have pointed to a key NAFTA provision affecting its dairy industry as a specific sticking point in the negotiations.
According to Hassett, the fact that Canada has not agreed to the terms has “everybody over here a little bit puzzled.”
Among the terms reached by Mexico and the U.S. so far are requirements that would impact the auto industry by requiring an increased amount — 75 percent — of a vehicle’s parts to be made in North America in order for NAFTA to categorize it as a duty-free product.
The renegotiated agreement would also require that at least 40 percent of all workers producing automotive parts earn the equivalent of $16 per hour or more.
Hassett’s comments this week echoed remarks U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made last month on the issue of North American trade.
He said that the Trump administration prefers to have Canada as an active participant in the negotiations, but it would be willing to move forward with a bilateral agreement if necessary.
“I think our objective is to try to get Canada on board quickly,” Mnuchin said. “This is a great deal for American workers. If you remember one thing, this deal is about more trade for U.S. companies and goods and services, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
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