Quebec's NAFTA negotiator not worried about Canada being left out of U.S., Mexico talks

Quebec’s leading trade negotiator on the NAFTA file says he is not remotely worried by the fact that the U.S. and Mexico are talking trade without Canada.

Canada and the U.S. have common interests on automotive file, Raymond Bachand says

Quebec's chief NAFTA negotiator Raymond Bachand joined Power & Politics to discuss the state of play in NAFTA negotiations. 6:40

Quebec's leading trade negotiator on the NAFTA file says he's not remotely worried by the fact that the U.S. and Mexico are talking trade without Canada.

Raymond Bachand, a former Quebec provincial finance minister and the province's NAFTA negotiator, made the comments in an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Tuesday.

"I'm not worried at all, because we [the U.S. and Canada] have the same interests. It's one subject that is being discussed, which is automobiles," he told host Vassy Kapelos.

"There's two or three other issues which are really bilateral issues with Mexico, like seasonality of fruit and things like that. But all the major subjects left between Canada and the U.S., or Canada, Mexico and the U.S., are [being] held off until the automobile [issue] is resolved."

Using a sporting analogy to describe the state of NAFTA talks, Bachand said the first half of the regular season involved all three players hashing out some of the simpler issues, closing a number of chapters in the process.

The second half of the regular season — the phase we're in now — kicked off when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer decided in April that Mexico and the U.S. would meet separately to discuss one issue: rules of origin for the automobile industry.

"In all fairness, it is the number one issue for the president. It's probably the most important industry in the United States," Bachand said. "So they want to solve that and, basically, they blocked progress on all the other chapters until that is resolved."

The hard part still to come

Once the second half of the regular season is over, the three NAFTA partners will enter the 'playoffs' and take on the remaining issues, Bachand said.

"The playoffs are basically the last seven or eight very big issues, like of course the sunset clause, chapter 19, the arbitration process, the cultural exemption, supply management," he said.

"There's five or six major issues that have to be tackled which are not being discussed and that's going to be [done] in a trilateral fashion."