NAFTA to come up during Trudeau, Trump meeting at NATO

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be seeking an update on the status of NAFTA talks in the U.S. when he meets with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

The leaders will sit down together at the official U.S. residence in London, known as Winfield House, at 3:30 p.m. local time, Tuesday.

A source with direct knowledge of the situation says Canada will press the U.S. for more information about where the domestic ratification process stands, given recent momentum toward a deal.

Multiple sources tell CBC News that the Trump administration and Democrats are close to reaching a compromise on the three-way trade deal. One source described the file as “hot”.

Before the new NAFTA is brought into force, Canada, the U.S., and Mexico must independently ratify the agreement.

Mexico is the only country that has passed the pact so far.

Breakthrough

Ottawa is waiting for Washington to start its domestic ratification process before making its next move. The deal is expected to easily pass in Canada, with the Liberals anticipating support from the Conservatives.

For months, the Trump administration has been negotiating with the Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, to bring in additional measures to enforce improved labour standards in Mexico. That is part of what the Democrats require before agreeing to bring NAFTA to the floor for a vote.

Those talks reached a breakthrough moment last week. Trump’s negotiators and Democrats found enough common ground that senior officials from Canada and Mexico were summoned to Washington to look at the compromises.

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, was included in one of those meetings. She flew into the U.S. capital for a one-hour conversation, before flying back to Canada that same day.

The source says Canada also plans to bring up the detention of two Canadian citizens by China.

Nearly one year ago, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor were taken into custody by Chinese officials in what is widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior Chinese technology executive.

Michael Spavor, left, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, right, were taken into Chinese custody nearly one year ago.(Associated Press/International Crisis Group/Canadian Press)

After receiving an extradition request from U.S. authorities, law enforcement officials in Vancouver arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Beijing is furious and taking its anger out on Ottawa. On top of the detention of the two Canadians, China has also stopped buying large quantities of canola. And for four months, it stopped purchasing Canadian meat products.

Canada regularly asks allies for public support in its diplomatic dispute with China. Although not much has changed, the pressure campaign is said to have been noticed by top officials in Beijing.

Trudeau is also said to be expecting Trump to bring up his concerns about Canada’s lack of military spending.

Trump has regularly encouraged, if not attempted to shame, Canada and other allies into increasing military spending.

NATO members are supposed to invest two per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) into defence spending.

Canada only spends 1.27 per cent of its GDP on defence.

Despite the constant pressure from its southern neighbour, Canada will not announce any new funding plan.

While overall investments are set to increase as part of a long-term strategy, there are no plans for Ottawa to hit that two-per-cent threshold.