Canada's NAFTA negotiator blasts United States government procurement proposal as 'worst' in history

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland talks with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer right and Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarrea during the sixth round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal Monday January 29

Canada, US Exchange Barbs Over NAFTA Talks

Verheul said a USA demand that would slash the amount of government procurement contracts for Canadian and Mexican firms "is the worst offer ever made by the U.S.in any trade negotiation". "This is not a place to resolve disputes", said Maryscott Greenwood, the chief executive officer at the Canadian American Business Council who is closely involved in Nafta talks. "So they are looking to strengthen the USA and by doing that weaken Canada and Mexico within the North American economy", Verheul told an Ottawa conference organized by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Nafta, which took effect in 1994, governs much of the commerce between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, which trade $1 trillion annually in goods.

The Trump administration is signaling progress on Nafta talks, particularly with Mexico, as Republican lawmakers voice support for a trade deal President Donald Trump has threatened repeatedly to abandon. But the negotiations turned out to be more complicated, and now political events threaten to prolong the process, said IMEF President Fernando Lopez.

The normally reserved Verheul warned "the worst possible outcome" would be for the United States to go it alone - a scenario he warned would weaken North America, allowing other countries and regions to take easy advantage.

"The U.S. approach is to focus on the U.S. perspective only, rather than a North American perspective".

Canada has made a number of what it calls creative proposals to address the US insistence that the North American content of autos be raised.

The talks have made little progress as Canada and Mexico seek to address US demands for reform.

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The Canadian Press also reported that Verheul said the USA proposal might be the worst ever put down at a negotiating table.

"(It) would leave us in a position where the country of Bahrain would have far better access to USA procurement markets than Canada would, or that Mexico would, and we've clearly said this kind of offer is not possible".

Canada will stay at the negotiating table for as long as it takes, Verheul said.

US ambassador Kelly Craft said in a speech Tuesday night in Ottawa that Trump's election victory was the result of him awakening sentiments percolating in America for some time that are shared by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau-to elevate working people.

Canada wants to roll the existing U.S.

Steve Verheul says that's because the talks are moving "a bit too fast".

The talks have effectively stalled as Canada and Mexico seek to address wide-ranging US demands for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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"Heading into the next round, we will bring a lot of ideas to the table".

"We have no choice but to continue to ... impress on the USA that this can not be a winner-takes-all agreement", he said.

However, economists are divided, as jobs in the manufacturing industry have dropped from 17 million in 1994 to only 12.2 million in 2016, and the United States now buys $55.6 billion more from Mexico than they purchase from us.

Canadian negotiators are headed to Mexico next week to have a strategy session with their counterparts ahead of the seventh round. The U.S.is signaling a skepticism for a trilateral council and that accepting it may require a power shift - if rolled into Nafta, the council would move under the control of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's office.

Earlier this week, Trump complained about Canadian trade practices and threatened an undefined worldwide tax, reviving fears of new American import penalties-a fear the White House has since played down.

The countries' current positions are not entirely clear and they theoretically could still agree to preserve regulatory efforts outside Nafta.

The next round of negotiations is scheduled to begin in late February in Mexico City.

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