OTTAWA — A top Mexican diplomat says issues that Democrats in the United States have raised about the new North American free-trade agreement are valid, but not an impediment to getting the deal finalized by end of year.
Jesus Seade, Mexico's point man on the trade deal, downplayed any concerns about the fate of the deal Friday morning as he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his deputy Chrystia Freeland, who oversees negotiations for Canada.
Talks have intensified lately to get the deal approved with only a few weeks left in the calendar year for the U.S. Congress to ratify the agreement — a timeline Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, has publicly discussed.
Seade says he expects the deal to get done soon, but noted the short time left for Congress to go through the approval process when it still hasn't taken the first step towards ratification.
American officials had talked about finalizing a deal by U.S. Thanksgiving, which was Nov. 28.
All three countries have signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but it has to be ratified by their legislatures before it takes effect.
So far, only Mexico has taken that step.
The deal is stalled in the U.S. Congress, where Democrats have been pushing for stricter enforcement measures for its labour and environmental standards.
"Many of the issues raised by the Democrats are very valid and what is coming out of it will be very good. I don't want to speculate now — we still have to cross the finish line," Seade said during brief remarks in Trudeau's office.
"At the same time, after one extra year of looking through the text (of the deal) with a magnifying lens, there are many things that have come out that have not been negotiated issues, it's just improvements where all three of us are on the same side."
Most of the trouble is between the United States and Mexico, but Canada can play a role in smoothing things out, such as by helping Mexico adopt Canadian-style systems for certifying unions.
Trudeau for his part said that Canada "is extremely supportive of Mexico's steps towards labour reforms."
Trudeau added that the countries had been "working very well in getting this negotiation forward."