NAFTA’s sticking points: Key hurdles to clear for a deal

There are six major hurdles that Canada and the USA must agree on to make this work

Canadian and U.S. officials say the path to a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement is opening up, and could come together this week.

But to get to the finish line, there are a number of obstacles to move out of the way.

  • Dispute settlement: NAFTA contains three mechanisms for settling disputes. One of them, known as Chapter 11, is designed to create predictable investment conditions by allowing companies to sue governments for unfair treatment. Chapter 19, the second mechanism, enablesindustries to fight punitive antidumping and countervailing duties. The third, Chapter 20, lets countries sue other countries. In the original NAFTA negotiations, Chapter 19’s inclusion was a key condition for Canada. It has been used over the years in battles against softwood lumber duties. Fast forward to the NAFTA 2.0 talks and Chapter 19 is still make-or-break for Canada. The Trudeau government has repeatedly stated it won’t budge on its position that Chapter 19 remain in a renegotiated NAFTA. The U.S., on the other hand, wants to eliminate Chapter 19.
  • Dairy: Canada’s protected dairy industry, a longtime bull’s-eye of U.S. President Donald Trump’s angry tweets, has emerged as a major late-stage irritant. Dairy is a politically charged issue in Canada and was widely expected to be among the final NAFTA stumbling blocks. In Canada, it’s a near-$20-billion industry that employs more than 220,000 people. The sector’s supply-management system is considered sacred in Quebec and Ontario, which have the biggest provincial populations and, thus, wield the most political influence. The Trump administration, however, has demanded that Canada get rid of its tariffs on dairy, as well as poultry and egg products, to open up opportunities for American farmers. Ottawa seems prepared to consider concessions to Washington on Canada’s dairy market, while also trying to preserve the supply-management system.

READ MORE: Canada continues NAFTA talks as deadline looms

  • Pharmaceuticals: U.S. trade policy states that other countries should contribute more to the hefty costs of research and development by paying more for pharmaceuticals. In particular, the U.S. wants Canada to be more transparent in how it determines drug prices and changes to how they are set. It also wants longer patent-style protections on biologic treatments. Under its new deal with Mexico — which Trump has urged Canada to sign — the U.S. says there’s an agreement on provisions that include 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs and an expanded list of products that are eligible for protection.
  • Exemptions on cultural products: U.S. lawmakers have called on Canada to weaken its protections for cultural industries that are exempted from the current NAFTA. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has argued there’s a legitimate case for some cultural exceptions, but that “the cultural exemption is very often just cultural protectionism.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has connected the issue to bilingualism — as an important tool to protect culture, languages, creative sectors and artists. Quebec has insisted it’s crucial to maintain protections in this area in order for it to maintain its francophone culture.
  • Sunset clause: The U.S. initially proposed that a new NAFTA include a so-called sunset clause to ensure the deal is renegotiation every five years. Canada has publicly rejected the idea, saying a sunset clause would leave too much uncertainty for potential investors. This week, however, the U.S. and Mexico agreed on a watered-down version. Their new bilateral deal would expire after 16 years with reviews every six years. It’s unclear whether Canada would accept the new proposal.
  • De minimis: The U.S. has been pressing both Canada and Mexico to raise their de minimis thresholds, which represent the maximum value of an item that consumers can buy online from a foreign country without paying duties or taxes. The threshold for American customers ordering items from other countries is US$800. In comparison, Canadians can spend up to just $20 before the duties kick in. In its deal this week with Washington, Mexico agreed to raise its level to US$100 from US$50.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Crash blocks half of 200th Street in Langley City

Police and firefighters were on scene Thursday.

Langley knitters stickhandle poppy project to help legion

Some local women knitted poppies and donated the proceeds to Langley’s legion.

Judge rules against ALC on rural Langley subdivision

The ALC can’t change the definition of an acre, the judge ruled.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

Langley author pens tribute to the men and women of Canada’s military for Remembrance Day

‘A soldier, a sailor and an airman … stood before the Pearly Gates’

VIDEO: People with diabetes meet their alert dogs

A diabetic alert dog is trained to detect low blood sugar in people who have Type 1 diabetes

ZYTARUK: You don’t have to wear the ribbon – but look out if you don’t

Demonize and dog-pile. If you disagree with me, you are not only wrong, you are evil. The enemy…

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Offensive Facebook post by Okanagan Conservative riding sparks outrage

Post taken down after Conservative MP in neighbouring riding condemns it and demands removal

Friends describe murder victim as ‘most caring guy we knew’

Jagvir Malhi of Abbotsford was not involved in gangs or criminal activity, they say

John Horgan shrugs off low turnout, change to referendum option

‘No’ proportional representation group says voting should be extended

Two more government pot shops to open in Kamloops

Two private applications are also in the queue to come before city council by the end of the year

2 B.C. men charged after allegedly stealing $1,400 worth of butter

The two men, ages 23 and 25, are facing charges of theft under $5,000, Coquitlam police said

Invasive fire ants join the tourist swarms at Hawaii Volcano National Park

Invasive species found at popular tourist destination

Most Read