"We're encouraged that all three countries' representatives reported progress toward a modernized agreement", said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Canada proposed a compromise at talks in Montreal last week that would instead see the method for calculating North American content revamped to include high-tech work, such as software development.
At the latest round of NAFTA talks, Canada put forward some fresh ideas on how to calculate the value of regional content in vehicles, including giving more credit for driverless and electric cars, plus research and development work, Chrystia Freeland, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in an interview January 31 from Bloomberg's headquarters in NY. It is carefully worded to appeal to Trump's successes, pointing to them as a reason to stay in the trade deal.
Trump campaigned on promises to withdraw from NAFTA, deriding it as a awful deal that had cost U.S.jobs and destroyed manufacturing.
Ohioans now find themselves in the unusual position of seeing their Republican senator disagree with Trump while their Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, says NAFTA has generally been bad for Ohio. Since 2009, I think, about [$87 billion] has been invested in North America, in the automotive industry.
The three ministers discussed various topics, including NAFTA.
"This round was a step forward, but we are progressing very slowly", he said.
While she praised the U.S. International Trade Commission's decision on Bombardier Inc., she declined to say whether Canada would now actively consider buying fighter jets from Boeing Co.
Canada's chief negotiator Chrystia Freeland said Canada agrees with recent statements made by Trump that free trade must be fair and reciprocal. Canadian negotiators have to know they are in for some pretty tough sledding if they hope to get a deal. Canada is pushing for modernization of Nafta while mounting a widespread lobbying campaign in the U.S.to put pressure on Trump to not follow through on his threat to kill the deal. Canada's dairy system, Mexican labour laws, and access to USA government procurement, for example, are topics that did not seem to be discussed at length in this round.
Furthermore, 36 Republican Senators have now written US president Donald Trump asking that he "keep NAFTA in place, but modernize it" because that would serve to "expand energy exports to maximize domestic energy production" and along with other measures (including his corporate tax cuts) "fuel historic growth".
But even over the longer term, the costs remain high and are significant. The cabinet member leading the negotiations made the point Friday. "We prepare for the blizzard", she said.
What's the industry's general mood coming out of the Montreal round of NAFTA talks? .
"All our efforts right now are based around NAFTA and making sure the pact doesn't collapse", said a senior Mexican diplomat. With serious negotiating on the hardest issues just barely begun, and national elections in Mexico and the USA later this year, conversations are turning to what might happen when the current schedule of talks concludes in March.