U.S.-Canadian Argument Reportedly Wakes Up NAFTA Talks

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

The ongoing NAFTA negotiations are being conducted quietly away from the ears of media, but U.S. and Canadian negotiators reportedly in a “fairly forceful” debate Tuesday over the trade pact’s future.

Sources tell CBC News that U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland argued over the inclusion of a sunset clause into NAFTA that would force the U.S., Canada and Mexico every five years to all individually express their desire to continue with the treaty. Otherwise, NAFTA would die.

The “senior” source told CBC that the tiff arose when Lighthizer raised the issue of a sunset clause — something both Canada and Mexico oppose because they say it would create uncertainty over the viability of the treaty.

On Wednesday, Freeland explained to reporters that in addition to the uncertainty that she says the sunset clause would create, member states can already exit NAFTA at any time if they want to.

“Canada’s position on the sunset clause is unchanged,” Freeland said.

“Our view is that this is absolutely unnecessary.”

According to the source, the “fairly forceful” dialogue indicates an unwillingness on the part of both countries to amend their position.

Another source sought to minimize the importance of the disagreement, saying “no voices were raised” and insisting that “Lighthizer and Freeland have a cordial and close relationship.”

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