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Freeland to go to Washington to for trade talks with U.S. and Mexico

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is headed to Washington, D.C., for trade talks with another North American trade deadline looming.

Officials from the continent’s three countries have been holding talks aimed at speeding the ratification of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Canadian government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Freeland would be leaving the Ottawa area, where she was meeting with cabinet colleagues, to join Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s acting U.S. ambassador, and Steve Verheul, the chief trade negotiator, in the U.S. capital Wednesday afternoon.

There, Freeland would be taking part in what was described as a “trilateral meeting” with her American and Mexican counterparts.

Mexico is the only country to legally approve the deal, while Canada is waiting on the U.S. Congress to make its first move towards ratification.

The American Thanksgiving holiday was seen by many as the last reasonable opportunity for U.S. lawmakers to practically dispatch with USMCA amid the broader impeachment drama engulfing President Donald Trump and the looming political shift to all-out campaigning for the November 2020 presidential election.

Democrats control the House of Representatives and have been negotiating with Robert Lighthizer, the Trump administration’s trade czar, for many months to strengthen several of the deal’s provisions.

That includes improved labour standards to ensure that Mexico’s much promised workplace reforms — seen as key to levelling the continent’s economic playing field — can be enforced.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.

The Canadian Press