NAFTA in August? Canada’s US envoy says ‘aspirational,’ but will work for it

NAFTA in August? Canada’s US envoy says ‘aspirational,’ but will work for it

OTTAWA — Canada’s ambassador to the United States says predictions that NAFTA talks can be settled by the end of month are aspirational — even if American and Mexican officials were to reach an agreement soon on complex auto sector issues.

But David MacNaughton insists in an interview today that there’s nothing wrong with having the ambitious goal and says Canadian negotiators are ready to put in the long hours to help make it happen before the end of August.

MacNaughton is closely following NAFTA talks in Washington today between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, whose governments have both expressed optimism a deal could be hammered out this month.

There have been concerns raised about Canada’s absence from this week’s high-level talks on the three-country deal, but federal officials, including MacNaughton, have said they’re not worried because there have been a lot of bilateral talks during NAFTA’s renegotiation process.

The ambassador says the Mexicans and Americans have both told him they are pretty close to an agreement on autos — and he expects Canadian officials to be back at the NAFTA bargaining table perhaps as soon as next week.

From there, MacNaughton says the three partners would have to tackle a list of other tough issues — including dispute resolution, agriculture and the proposed inclusion of a five-year sunset clause, which has been flatly rejected by the federal Liberals — but he says none of the remaining issues are as large as U.S.-Mexico differences on autos.