Amid NAFTA auto breakthrough, obstacles remain - Macleans.ca

Amid NAFTA auto breakthrough, obstacles remain

Justin Trudeau said Wednesday agreement on a deal is ’eminently possible’

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Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Chrystia Freeland, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks during the press conference of NAFTA Negotiations. (Photo by Carlos Tischler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – The United States confirmed Wednesday there has been a breakthrough over a leading irritant in the NAFTA negotiations.

It says the U.S., Canada and Mexico have converged around common ideas for autos and that those negotiations are in a good place.

That being said, serious irritants remain.

READ: Bruce Heyman: No one person can define the U.S.-Canada relationship

U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer provided a progress report Wednesday to Congress, amid a U.S. effort to get a deal within weeks, before the Mexican election.

He said Canada has “Third World” intellectual property protections; called some elements of Canadian cultural policy mere protectionism; blasted rules on foreign wine sales in Canadian stores; and he called it a very high priority to open up trade in dairy.

His testimony came as Canada was lauding progress at the negotiating table: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he believes there will be an agreement in short order on a renewed NAFTA and that a deal is “eminently possible.”

READ: Canadians see possible signal U.S. ready to accept NAFTA compromise

Lighthizer was testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees trade policy. The committee chair said he is hopeful the current Congress will be able to ratify a deal before midterm elections usher in a new Congress.

But to do that a deal would have to come together within weeks. Any delay beyond that would make it impossible for the U.S. to complete all the legal requirements for a vote to take place in 2018.