Former Bush Negotiator Not So Optimistic About New NAFTA Deal

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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One of the top negotiators who helped build the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) says the probability of a new deal is “below 50 percent.”

Ambassador Carla Hills told Global News on Saturday that she thinks the chances are slim for a renegotiated trade agreement. Hills was then-president George H.W. Bush’s chief trade representative when the U.S. sat down with Canada and Mexico to work out the seminal trade deal in the early 1990s.

The next round of negotiations are slated to begin in Canada on Sept. 22. Twice in the last month, President Donald Trump has threatened to unilaterally pull the U.S. out of NAFTA — although he would need congressional approval to do so.

“I think it’s within the art of the possible to reach a deal,” Hills said of breaking the deadlock.

“What is the likelihood of that happening? I think that’s below 50 percent. I think it’s going to be very difficult to get a finished agreement,” she told Global News.

Hill suggested finding common ground on some of the basic issues instead of beginning with the most contentious ones — which is exactly what the Trudeau government has not been doing by insisting that an acknowledgment of climate change be part of the agreement.

Hill maintains that NAFTA was a great deal for all countries involved and she believes that Trump simply doesn’t understand the treaty.

“I wish those around (Trump) would explain what the NAFTA actually does. And that it created a market with 490 million consumers with $19 trillion dollars of output. That it opened up the three markets so that they could trade together,” she told Global News, adding that she believes NAFTA was integral to the creation of the World Trade Organization.

She likens the renewal of NAFTA to “upgrading an old but lovely house. … NAFTA needs a good coat of paint.”

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