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What's At Stake For Canada As Trade Talks With The U.S. Continue

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We learned today that there is no deal yet with Canada on a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement. Even though President Trump had set today as the deadline, negotiators say they will resume talks on Wednesday.

To find out what some of the sticking points are for Canada, we turn to Christophe Bondy. He was a top attorney on a trade deal that Canada struck with the European Union several years ago, and he joins us from Wales. Welcome to the program.

CHRISTOPHE BONDY: Hi. How are you?

SHAPIRO: Fine, thanks. What do you make of this news that negotiators won't meet the deadline President Trump set?

BONDY: Well, I think Canada was clear all along that if it didn't agree with what was on the table, if it was not the right deal, that it was not going to sign at any cost. It seems to me that this date of Friday was something that was manufactured by the U.S. administration in an attempt to meet the deadlines for congressional approval and in relation to the Mexican president's stepping down and being replaced and so kind of trying to push a deal through. Canada said all along what matters is getting the right deal and that if we don't have that on the table, we'll keep talking. That's in effect what's happened.

SHAPIRO: And Canada's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, seems to think that a good deal is still possible. This afternoon, she said a win-win agreement is in reach but also said Canada needs to protect its own workers, families and businesses. Remind us what the big hang-ups are.

BONDY: Well, I mean, one of the things that Canada is strong about is that it wants a rules-based approach to international trade and in particular has been strongly pushing for maintaining the possibility of review of anti-dumping determinations by the U.S. We saw recently the tariffs that were imposed upon newsprint, Canadian newsprint, by the U.S. administration were overturned upon review because they were found to be inappropriate and illegal. And it's just that kind of thing that Canada thinks is - from what, you know, the negotiators are saying and consistent with our position should be maintained.

And these sorts of positions are also thinking about the economic implications of the agreement, trying to make a deal that makes sense economically. This has been a very deep and successful three-way relationship, and Canada wants to maintain that. And I think business in the United States wants to maintain that. And the millions of U.S. jobs that depend upon three-way trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are also what we're trying to protect.

SHAPIRO: Do you think the optimism is justified? Do you think that a deal is likely to be reached?

BONDY: Look; as negotiators and diplomats, you keep talking, and you keep putting your position, and hopefully they will achieve a positive outcome. At the end of the day, you know, the original NAFTA is still in place and will continue to still be in place. And it's doing its job. So if we can reach a new agreement, that's great. But as Canada has continued to say, we're not going to update the agreement at any cost.

SHAPIRO: Well, that makes it sound like Canada doesn't have a lot of incentive to reach a deal if the old NAFTA remains in place.

BONDY: Well, I think Canada wants to update this and is engaging in the discussions in good faith. So it does have incentive in the sense that this continues to be an irritant in relations between the two countries. So I think that the Canadian negotiators saw this attempt to conclude the deal or at least agreement in principle on big-picture issues by this Friday or this coming week as an opportunity.

SHAPIRO: Christophe Bondy, former senior counsel on Canadian trade negotiations with the EU, thanks for joining us.

BONDY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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