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NAFTA talks grind on, Canada quells talk of US quota on autos

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Canada and the United States showed scant sign of being close to striking a deal on revamping the trilateral NAFTA that underpins $1.2 trillion in annual trade, as Canadian sources played down talk of a U.S. quota on autos.

Canada says it does not feel bound by a U.S.-imposed deadline for the end of September to conclude a deal.

While multiple deadlines have been and gone during the more than year-long negotiations to renew NAFTA, pressure on Canada to agree to a deal is growing, partly to push it through Congress before Mexico’s new government takes office on Dec. 1.

Trump, who struck a side-deal with third NAFTA member Mexico last month, has threatened to exclude Canada if necessary. He also warned of tariffs on Canadian autos exports.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has held talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in each of the last four weeks and on Thursday opened another round.

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A senior Canadian labor leader briefed on the negotiations told Reuters that an immediate breakthrough was unlikely.

“We’ve made progress according to the briefing I got but of course there is no agreement and there are some predictable issues that need to be resolved,” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Yussuff said a standoff over how to settle disputes was “a critical issue”. The two sides are also at odds over U.S. demands for more access to Canada’s dairy market.

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The uncompromising tone by Trump, who came to power last year threatening to tear up NAFTA unless major changes were made to a pact he blames for the loss of manufacturing jobs, has stoked market fears about the potential damage to three nations’ highly integrated economies.

The Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday reported that U.S. negotiators want Ottawa to agree to capping its auto exports to the United States at 1.7 million vehicles a year, something that Canadian industry sources dismissed as unacceptable.

“Canada absolutely … would not agree to a self-imposed quota,” said a source familiar with the talks.

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Separately, a Canadian source directly familiar with the negotiations said “we have not discussed a cap”.

As part of the bilateral deal between Mexico and the United States, the Mexican side agreed to limit its exports of autos and SUVs.

Freeland plans to return to Canada on Thursday ahead of a two-day meeting of female foreign ministers she is co-hosting in Montreal on Friday and Saturday. Next week she will be in New York for a United Nations session.

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Additional reporting by Dave Graham in Mexico City and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Susan Thomas


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South Korean fighter jets fire 400 warning shots at Russian military plane

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South Korean fighter jets fired nearly 400 warning shots at a Russian military aircraft on Tuesday after it violated the country's airspace, with Seoul warning of a far stronger reaction if a breach reoccurs.

The Russian A-50 early warning and control aircraft breached South Korean airspace twice off its east coast, the defence ministry official said, forcing the air force to scramble fighters.

Moscow denied any of its military aircraft had violated South Korean airspace, saying its planes had carried out planned drills over international waters.

But Seoul said a warplane entered South Korean airspace near the disputed Dokdo islets -- which are also claimed by Japan -- the first such violation since Korean War hostilities ended in 1953.

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2020 Election

Democrats are on the verge of setting a ‘time bomb’ for any candidate who can defeat Trump

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If a new president takes over the White House in January 2021, he or she may quickly find that the Democratic Party that just won control of the executive branch left a loaded gun in the hands of the Republicans, who are all too eager to use it.

That should be the takeaway from reports about the budget negotiations between the House Democrats and the Trump administration. According to Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur, the parties are coalescing around an agreement to raise spending by $350 billion, offset that increase somewhat with about $75 billion, and extend the debt ceiling — now set to expire in the fall — to July 31, 2021.

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2020 Election

State Sen. Royce West enters Democratic primary to challenge John Cornyn

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State Sen. Royce West made it official Monday: He’s running for U.S. Senate, joining a crowded and unsettled Democratic primary in the race to unseat Republican John Cornyn.

“I’m battle tested,” West told supporters at a campaign launch event. “You’ve seen me in battle, and I’m ready today to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate.”

The Dallas attorney has been viewed as a potential primary contender for some time now, but he remained mum publicly on his plans. In June, West met with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., where he reportedly had a “positive meeting” and signaled that he was likely to throw his hat in the ring. He filed the Federal Election Commission paperwork to formally launch his bid Friday.

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