Canada and the United States will restart high-level talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland returns to Washington in hope of making progress on stubborn differences on Tuesday.
Freeland and her counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, left the bargaining table Friday without a deal following two weeks of what she has described as intense, but productive, negotiations.
The trip to Washington is expected to be short. Freeland is scheduled to attend the Liberals’ caucus retreat Wednesday in Saskatoon and it’s unclear whether she will return to the U.S. capital late in the week.
Ottawa and Washington are trying to reach an agreement that could be submitted to the U.S. Congress by month’s end. A deal would see Canada join a preliminary trade agreement the Trump administration struck last month with Mexico.
The two sides have so far been unable to break an impasse over, among other issues, U.S. access to the Canadian dairy market, a cultural exemption for Canada and the Chapter 19 dispute resolution mechanism.
A Canadian source with knowledge of the NAFTA discussions said an agreement is within reach — but they stressed that getting there will require flexibility from all sides. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The renegotiation of the 24-year-old NAFTA, which also includes Mexico and is integral to the continent’s economy, has dragged on for 13 months.
With so much uncertainty, Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have regularly been dogged by questions about the fate of NAFTA.