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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Troubled Nafta trade deal may be back on track

“Positive momentum” included the thorny issue of US demands around automobile production, said Canada's Trudeau after talks with US Vice President

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister. Nafta talks could restart soon, he said. Guillermo Gutierrez/Bloomberg
Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister. Nafta talks could restart soon, he said. Guillermo Gutierrez/Bloomberg

The Nafta trade agreement could be renegotiated in the next few weeks, US Vice President Mike Pence and Canada’s Prime Minister said Saturday in Peru, avoiding new political opposition that could emerge during Congressional and Mexican elections later this year.

“I’ll leave this summit very hopeful that we are very close to a renegotiated Nafta,” and “there is a real possibility that we could arrive at an agreement within the next several weeks,” Pence told reporters at the Summit of the Americas in Lima.

After the meeting with Mr Pence, Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau said the “positive momentum” included the thorny issue of US demands around automobile production. “We would like to see a renegotiated deal land sooner rather than later,” he added.

“There is a desire and a recognition by all three Nafta partners that the time-lines imposed upon us by both the upcoming, the imminent Mexican elections and the upcoming American midterms, means that we have a certain amount of pressure to try and move forward successfully in the coming weeks,” Mr Trudeau said.

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The comments restore some more optimism on Nafta after US President Donald Trump earlier this week canceled a trip to Peru where Nafta could have been discussed further, and said he could let trade talks go on indefinitely because it would deter companies from investing there.

Mr Pence later tweeted that it was “great to speak” with Mr Trudeau. “We discussed progress toward reaching an agreement on Nafta as soon as possible and that a deal must ensure fair and reciprocal trade.”

Mr Pence also said funding of a wall on the US-Mexico border didn’t come up during a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. “We are very close to the kind of breakthrough on issues of immigration, drug interjection” that will be of benefit to both sides, Mr Pence said.