Canada unveils ideas to save NAFTA as Trudeau urges U.S. executives to back free trade

Canada's chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul, centre, breaks for lunch on the second day of talks during the sixth round of the North American Free Trade Agreement in Montreal, Wednesday , January 24, 2018.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Canadian negotiators at the NAFTA talks on Wednesday unveiled ideas to address contentious American demands for revamping the 1994 pact while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged top U.S. executives to back free trade.

The sixth and penultimate round of negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened in Montreal on Tuesday with time running out for Canada and Mexico to settle big differences with the United States.

With financial markets skittish about the possible collapse of a US$1.2-trillion global trading bloc, Canada and Mexico say they are prepared to be flexible on U.S. proposals they had initially rejected as unworkable.

One thorny issue is Washington’s demand for a sunset clause that would kill NAFTA if it is not renegotiated after five years, an idea critics say would slash business investment.