Justin Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland meet Mexico’s USMCA point man in Ottawa

Jesus Seade, the Mexican undersecretary for North America, said he expects the deal to cross the finish line soon

Mexico’s point man on the new North American free-trade agreement shed some light on the remaining impediments to finalizing the deal by end of year — suggesting everyone could be shaking hands by next week if there’s enough political will.

Jesus Seade, the Mexican undersecretary for North America, said he expects the deal to cross the finish line soon, but noted the short time left for Congress to go through the approval process when it still hasn’t taken the first step towards ratification.

Congressional leaders have only three weeks left in their legislative calendar before they disperse until 2020 and their focus shifts to next fall’s presidential election. And looming over Congress is a Democrat-driven impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

American officials had talked about finalizing a deal by U.S. Thanksgiving, which was Thursday. On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who oversees negotiations for this country, flew to Washington in a bid to find a bipartisan solution to the stalled ratification process.

She also met with Seade on Friday in Ottawa to find a way forward.

“It’s more important to get the right treaty than a quick treaty,” Seade said at a news conference at the Mexican embassy after wrapping up meetings.

“If there are difficulties, we’ll deal with the issues, but if the amendments suggested are fine, are acceptable, are improvements, then there’s no reason why we should not be shaking hands next week.”

Talks have intensified lately to get the deal approved with only a few weeks left in the calendar year for the U.S. Congress to ratify the agreement — a timeline Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, has publicly discussed.

But standing in the way have been concerns from Pelosi’s fellow Democrats over labour and environmental standards, prompting their push for stricter enforcement measures. Democrats want to give the deal more reach to prevent manufacturing and automotive companies from relocating factories to Mexico, where they could pay employees far less, although Seade argued Mexico has “all the resources necessary” to enforce labour standards.

Still, Seade called their concerns ”valid” during brief remarks alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a morning meeting, adding that most of the issues are improvements the three sides agree on.

All three countries have signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but it has to be ratified by their legislatures before it takes effect.

So far, only Mexico has taken that step.

Most of the trouble is between the United States and Mexico, but Canada can play a role in smoothing things out, such as by helping Mexico adopt Canadian-style systems for certifying unions.

How that might work is through a side agreement to the deal, since Canada maintains the core text of the pact isn’t open to further negotiations.

Trudeau for his part said that Canada “is extremely supportive of Mexico’s steps towards labour reforms.”

Seade said it was only in the last few days that the three countries had draft texts of these side deals to look over.

One would create a dispute-resolution mechanism tied to labour provisions in the deal, which Seade said would provide a reliable mechanism to settle disagreements without the ability of one country to block. He also said it would prevent the need for “Lone Ranger” inspectors to be parachuted into Mexican facilities to check for violations — a red line for the Mexican government.

Seade also said there will be some accommodation on expiry dates on patents for some pharmaceuticals, which Mexican and Canadian negotiators feel is too long before cheaper, generic versions can come onto the market.

“If there’s any change on that, it would be in the direction of getting closer to the Canadian and Mexican position,” he said without going into detail.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Thornhill’s future takes centre stage at June 2 public hearing

The current community plan was adopted in 1981

Class will look different at Coast Mountain College this September

The college is embracing a distributed learning model

City council considers easing food truck restriction

Food trucks limited to four hours public parking, may increase to six hours

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

Most Read