The Trump administration is growing confident that a trade deal with Canada is moving close, and that a trilateral Nafta agreement will be published before the midnight deadline Sunday, five people familiar with the matter said.
The two sides are discussing the last sticking points, including greater market access for U.S. supplies into Canada’s dairy market, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussion are private.
Canada’s ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, echoed the sentiment early Sunday evening, saying talks are moving forward but not yet completed. “Lots of progress but we’re not there yet,” MacNaughton told reporters in Ottawa, where the Canadian team is gathered. He said he didn’t know if a deal would be reached Sunday.
U.S. and Canadian negotiators have been negotiating around the clock this weekend to make a deadline that would allow the countries to sign the deal as the final act before Mexico’s outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto leaves office at the end of November.
Reaching a pact with Canada allows the 24-year-old pact to remain trilateral and for the U.S. to check another box for its legislative process in the lead up to a congressional vote.
Some people familiar with the talks credited Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner for helping smooth the path toward a deal. When it looked like negotiations had stalled or broken down due to friction between the U.S. and Canadian sides, Kushner kept talks going with aides close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, including Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, three people said.
U.s. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Kushner were at the USTR office in Washington on Sunday afternoon negotiating final details by conference call with the Canadians in Ottawa. U.S. officials have been keeping President Donald Trump in the loop on every step since Friday, but there was no plan as of 6 p.m. to go to the White House to brief him in person, two people said.
MacNaughton is flying back to Washington Sunday night, one official said.
U.S. lawmakers and business have urged the administration to keep Canada in the deal but the trilateral nature had been in jeopardy after Trump on Aug. 27 announced he reached a deal with Mexico that Canada could join if it’s willing to make concessions. They agreed to publish the text by the end of September.
It wasn’t clear how the announcement on a trade deal Sunday would be rolled out, the people said. The Canadian dollar was rallying on anticipation of a deal, strengthening 0.5 percent, while the Mexican peso gained abut 0.2 percent.