Washington (IANS): The US and Canada have reached a last minute deal to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), overcoming deep divisions to keep the 25-year-old trilateral pact intact.
The deal came on Sunday night after a weekend of frantic talks to try and preserve a trade agreement that has stitched together the economies of Mexico, Canada and the US but that was in danger of collapsing amid deep divisions between President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reports The New York Times.
The 11th-hour agreement was punctuated by a frenetic Sunday, with Canadian leaders teleconferencing throughout the day with top American officials in Washington.
Trudeau convened a 10 p.m. cabinet meeting in Ottawa to brief officials on the deal, as Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his close adviser, and Robert E. Lighthizer, the Trade Representative, hashed out the final details.[The Joint Statement from United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland on Sunday stated: [“Today, Canada and the United States reached an agreement, alongside Mexico, on a new, modernized trade agreement for the 21st Century: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). USMCA will give our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses a high-standard trade agreement that will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in our region. It will strengthen the middle class, and create good, well-paying jobs and new opportunities for the nearly half billion people who call North America home. [“We look forward to further deepening our close economic ties when this new agreement enters into force. [“We would like to thank Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo for his close collaboration over the past 13 months.”]
Mexico’s Under Secretary of Foreign Trade, Juan Carlos Baker, was expected to present the texts of the agreement to the Mexican senate just before midnight.
The deal represents a win for Trump, who has derided NAFTA for years and threatened to pull the US from the pact if it was not rewritten in Washington’s favour.
The Trump administration struck a deal with Mexico last month to rewrite NAFT and had threatened to jettison Canada from the pact if it did not agree to concessions like opening its dairy market to American farmers.
The White House had set a September 30 deadline to release the text of its new trade agreement with Mexico.
Informed sources told The New York Times that Canada will now ease protections on its dairy market and provide access that is similar to what the US would have gained through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade treaty that Trump withdrew from last year.
The countries also appear to have reached an understanding that would protect Canada from the threat of automobile tariffs, which Trump has routinely threatened, though it is not clear how far those protections would extend.
Canada also appears ready to accept assurances that steel and aluminium tariffs that Trump has imposed will be lifted, though it remains unclear whether the taxes would be replaced by quotas that limit metal imports.