Mexican negotiator suggests there is no need for Canada to rejoin NAFTA talks after U.S.-Mexico reach deal

Jesus Seade, who represents Mexico’s incoming president, said the U.S.-Mexico agreement could be struck as soon as this week, but possibly next week


A top Mexican negotiator put a new question mark Wednesday over Canada’s participation in NAFTA talks, suggesting this country will not necessarily join in next week if the U.S. and its southern neighbour finish their own, two-way deal.

And Jesus Seade seemed to indicate that any bilateral agreement with the U.S. could cover major trilateral issues — issues of pressing importance to Canadian officials.

Seade, who represents incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said the U.S.-Mexico agreement could be struck as soon as this week, but possibly next week.

Asked by reporters outside the offices of the U.S. Trade Representative in Washington if Canada would then join the talks, he said: “I don’t see any reason why they have to come after we finish. It’s up to (U.S. Trade Representative Robert) Lighthizer to organize his time.”

The Mexican delegation — and sources familiar with the closed-door negotiations — have said previously Canada would return to the table as soon as the other two resolved their bilateral issues — maybe even this week.

Seade’s comments seemed to indicate otherwise.

To complicate matters further, however, he said in Spanish during the same news scrum that “Canada has to come aboard” to complete a revised NAFTA agreement.

Two American sources briefed on the talks said this week that Canada is likely to come under intense pressure to compromise when it does finally rejoin the negotiations — and is presented with a finished accord between the other two.

But Canadian officials said Wednesday they are not worried about the most recent developments.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was “very encouraged” by the progress made by the other two countries on bilateral issues, stressing that she has remained in close contact with both their trade teams.

“Canada is looking forward to join the negotiations and a swift conclusion to negotiations,” she told reporters in Nanaimo, B.C.

Formal trilateral talks involving all three parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement have not taken place since May.

Jesus Seade, chief negotiator for Mexico’s president-elect, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Seade is less definitive than some sources have been recently about when the U.S. and Mexico might reach a trade deal.AL DRAGO/BLOOMBERG