U.S. and Canadian negotiators pushed ahead in grinding talks to rescue the North American Free Trade Agreement on Thursday, but a few stubborn issues stood in the way of a deal, including dairy quotas, protection for Canadian media companies, and how to resolve future trade disputes.
A U.S. source familiar with the discussions in Washington said it was still unclear whether the two sides could bridge the gaps or whether President Donald Trump will opt for a Mexico-only bilateral trade deal.
Trump has set a deadline for a deal this week, prompting aides to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to work well into the evening Thursday to find ways to move forward.
“We are making good progress,” Freeland told reporters following a short meeting with Lighthizer at the USTR offices Thursday evening.
She repeated her earlier statements that the day’s discussions were “constructive and productive” amid an atmosphere of “goodwill on both sides.”
The Trump administration charges that Canada discriminates against U.S. dairy exports. It also wants to end the Chapter 19 arbitration panels for resolving disputes over anti-dumping tariffs, something Canada has used to defend its lumber exports to the United States, despite U.S. charges that Canadian lumber is unfairly subsidized.
NAFTA’s Chapter 19 governs how disputes are resolved.
The third unresolved issue is Canada’s insistence that previous NAFTA cultural exemptions protecting its publishing and media companies from being acquired by American companies be preserved. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week said this was important to Canada’s national sovereignty and identity.
Lighthizer has referred to the exemptions as “cultural protectionism” as Canadian companies are free to buy U.S. media outlets.
The United States and Mexico reached an agreement on overhauling NAFTA at the beginning of last week, turning up the pressure on Canada to agree to new terms.
Trump said Wednesday that he expected it to be clear whether there would be a deal to include Canada in a few days.
Trump has notified Congress he intends to sign the trade deal reached last week with Mexico by the end of November, and officials said the text would be published by around Oct. 1.
Death Toll From Japan Quake Doubles to 16
The death toll from a powerful earthquake that rattled the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido doubled to at least 16, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said
Friday, with more than half the island's 5.3 million residents still without power.
The 6.7 magnitude quake, which hit before dawn Thursday, triggered landslides that buried houses and paralyzed Hokkaido with widespread power and transport cuts.
The death toll had been at eight overnight, but broadcaster NHK cited Abe in reporting the new total soon after he held an emergency meeting early Friday.
Another 26 people were missing, disaster management authorities said.
The island, a tourist destination about the size of Austria known for its mountains, lakes and seafood, lost all power after the quake when Hokkaido Electric Power Co. shut its fossil fuel-fired power plants as a precaution.
The utility had restored power to about 1.31 million of 2.95 million customers by early Friday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. It could take at least a week to restore power fully.
The quake was the second disaster to hit Japan this week, after a summer during which the country has been battered by deadly typhoons, flooding and a record heat wave.