Negotiators from the U.S., Mexican and Canadian governments headed to Montreal this weekend for another round in the rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement that President Donald Trump has demanded.
The negotiating session in Montreal is likely to be the last before the Mexican presidential campaigns leading up to a July 1 election make negotiations too difficult. Trump has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the agreement if he does not the deal he wants from the renegotiation, but he has said he will not announce a decision on withdrawal until after the Mexican election.
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney announced Saturday that a government shutdown would not stop U.S. negotiators from traveling to Montreal and compared that with a shutdown during the Obama administration.
“During the last shutdown, I think the Obama administration cancelled a few very high-level trade negotiations,” Mulvaney said at a news briefing. “By contrast, this year, the USTR will use its funding flexibilities.”
The Trump administration will use “carry-forward funds” and transfer funds from one account to another to continue the NAFTA negotiations.
The talks will last until January 29, when the top U.S., Mexican and Canadian trade officials are scheduled to meet.
The Canadian Press said that Canada is prepared to host “angry” U.S. negotiators led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said he would be among a delegation of House Ways and Means Committee members attending the negotiations, the Associated Press reported on Friday. But it is unclear what impact the government shutdown might have on members traveling to Montreal.
The heads of the chambers of commerce in the United States, Mexico and Canada will all travel to Montreal to express their support for NAFTA, the Canadian Broadcasting Company reported.
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