Canada's Freeland to hold NAFTA talks on Tuesday as time runs short

(Adds details, background)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in Washington on Tuesday for another round of talks to renew the NAFTA trade pact, an official said on Monday, as time runs short to seal a deal.

Freeland spokesman Adam Austen did not give details. After more than a year of negotiations, Canada and the United States are still trying to resolve differences over the North American Free Trade Agreement, which also includes Mexico.

U.S. officials say time is running out to agree on a text on which the current Congress can vote. Canadian officials say they are working on the assumption they have until the end of September.

Freeland spent three days in Washington last week and said on Friday as she prepared to leave that she and Lighthizer were making very good progress in some areas, although a deal remained out of reach.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who says he is prepared to tear up NAFTA, has struck a trade deal with Mexico and threatened to push ahead without Canada.

Uncertainly over the future of NAFTA, which underpins $1.2 trillion in trade, is weighing on markets as well as the Canadian and Mexican currencies.

Officials say the main sticking points are Canada's dairy quota regime, Ottawa's desire to keep a dispute-resolution mechanism, and Canadian media laws that favor domestically produced content.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, speaking in an interview broadcast on Sunday, said Canada had to scrap a low-price milk proteins policy to reach a deal on NAFTA. U.S. farmers complain Canada is flooding export markets.

Austen, asked whether Freeland might return to Washington later in the week, said no decisions had been taken. She is due to attend a two-day meeting of legislators from the ruling Liberal Party in western Canada on Wednesday and Thursday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last Wednesday he did not see the need to attend the talks for the time being.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney)

First Published: 2018-09-10 22:10:59
Updated 2018-09-10 23:29:43


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