Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he would not sign a renegotiated NAFTA deal that allows U.S. news giants to buy Canadian media, or accede to American demands to kill a binding mechanism for settling trade disputes.
Canadian officials tell The Globe and Mail that U.S. negotiators have been pushing to remove cultural exemptions from the North American free-trade agreement, which could allow U.S. media companies, such as FOX News, to buy majority stakes in newspapers and television and radio stations.
Canada would walk away from the table rather than allow that, Mr. Trudeau said on Tuesday.
“It is inconceivable to any Canadian that an American network might buy Canadian media affiliates, whether it is a newspaper or television stations or TV networks,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Surrey, B.C., where he made a transit funding announcement. “It would be a giving up of our sovereignty and our identity, and that is something that we will not accept.”
U.S. negotiators are also pushing to acquire more power for U.S. broadcasters to prevent the removal of U.S. advertising from programs rebroadcast in Canada, officials say. In many instances, Canadian ads are substituted.
Mr. Trudeau said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who arrives in Washington on Wednesday to resume negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, will also hold firm to Canada’s position that NAFTA must retain a provision for settling disputes.
“We have a Chapter 19 in NAFTA, which is a dispute-resolution mechanism, that has worked reasonably well over the past few decades,” Mr. Trudeau said. “We need a dispute-resolution mechanism like Chapter 19, and will hold firm on that.”
In return, Canada is open to giving the United States greater access to Canada’s sheltered dairy market and to accept longer patent-protection periods for U.S. drugs and other technology, sources say.
If the Trump administration refuses to accept Canada’s chief demands, Canadian officials say, Mr. Trudeau is betting the U.S. Congress would deny the White House its approval for a tentative deal the United States reached with Mexico, and insist Canada be included.
Over the weekend, U.S. President Donald Trump once again threatened to tear up NAFTA if the U.S. Congress blocked the proposed U.S.-Mexico deal.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate finance committee, made clear on Tuesday that Congress would not approve an overhauled NAFTA without Canada being part of it.
Mr. Wyden dismissed as an “empty threat” Mr. Trump's weekend tweet that he would unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA if Congress blocked a U.S.-Mexico trade deal.
“Trump is relying on bluster and bullying in a desperate attempt to get Congress to swallow his half-baked deal. You can’t fix NAFTA without fixing issues with Canada,” Mr. Wyden said in a statement.
Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Tuesday he was hopeful U.S. and Canadian officials can reach a deal by Friday to enable a three-way accord in the renegotiation of NAFTA.
“I would hope that there will be white smoke for this Friday,” Mr. Guajardo told Mexican radio, referencing the symbol for the election of a new pope when asked about a trade deal.
Ms. Freeland arrives in a city abuzz about an explosive new book by investigative journalist Bob Woodward, who has quoted senior administration officials questioning Mr. Trump’s intelligence.
It said former economic adviser Gary Cohn removed a letter from the President’s desk that would have formally signalled the U.S.' intention to withdraw from NAFTA. Mr. Trump reportedly had asked then-senior aide Rob Porter: “Why aren’t we getting this done? Do your job. It’s tap, tap, tap. You’re just tapping me along. I want to do this.”
Under orders from the President, Mr. Porter drafted a notification letter withdrawing from NAFTA, Mr. Woodward reported. But the aide and other advisers worried it could trigger an economic and foreign-relations crisis. So Mr. Porter consulted Mr. Cohn, who told him, according to Mr. Woodward: “I can stop this. I’ll just take the paper off his desk.”
Canadian officials said they did not believe that the Woodward book – denounced by the White House as “nothing more than fabricated stories” – would affect the negotiations. Mr. Trudeau would not comment on the book.
Mr. Lighthizer, the Trump administration’s point man on NAFTA, has until Sept. 30 to wrap up negotiations with Canada after the President officially notified Congress on Friday that he intended to conclude a deal with Mexico if a deal could not be concluded with Ottawa. The text of the U.S.-Mexico deal is due by Sept. 30.
Daniel Ujczo, a U.S trade lawyer who has worked for both the U.S. and Canadian governments, said he’s hopeful Canada will strike a deal. “I think it’s a matter of not if but when,” he said.
“There’s a lot of talk about Chapter 19, but I think that is Canada trying to find a win to bring home,” he said.
“The focus on the U.S. side is dairy, dairy and dairy,” he said. “The President wants a win on dairy.”
Mr. Ujczo said he thinks the intellectual-property concessions Mexico made will be hard for Canada to accept.
“It’s the U.S. wish list on intellectual property … this appears to go beyond where Canada has gone in the past.”
With a report from Reuters