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‘No Progress’ in NAFTA talks, Canadian labor leader says

By Josh Wingrove and Eric Martin | Bloomberg News (TNS)

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The head of Canada’s largest private-sector union said there’s been “no progress” in North American Free Trade Agreement talks and that he expects the U.S., Mexico and Canada to eventually abandon them.

The U.S. hasn’t presented detailed written proposals at the third round of talks being held in Ottawa, Jerry Dias said Sunday. Dias isn’t attending the private negotiations but is among union leaders working closely with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he presses for NAFTA reforms on labor.

“There’s no progress, things are going very slow,” said Dias, head of Unifor, whose members include autoworkers. “There’s no meaningful discussions. It looks as if the tactics are, we’re the big player and we’re going to force the agenda, and if you don’t like it, too bad, so my guess is everybody just walks away.”

Dias spoke on the second of five days during the third round of talks. Key subjects such as labor and rules of origin, which govern how much of a product must be made within NAFTA countries to benefit from the pact, are set for negotiation on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I don’t believe the U.S. is serious about getting a deal,” Dias said. “They can’t be in round three and still not pass one piece of paper.”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Officials have downplayed expectations of breakthroughs in the Ottawa round of talks. Trump has called NAFTA a disaster and blamed it for a decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. He’s seeking to substantially rewrite the deal, targeting the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico in particular.

Sunday’s discussion topics included customs, textiles, services trade, government procurement, digital trade, state-owned enterprises, financial services, environmental issues, regulator practices and legal issues, according to an itinerary obtained by Bloomberg.

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‘No Progress’ in NAFTA talks, Canadian labor leader says