Canada to start 4-nation trade dialogue


MNA Business Desk: A Canadian official said Canada will open trade talks next month with the four-nation Mercosur trading bloc in South America as part of an ongoing push to diversify its trade partnerships.

It comes as its main trading relationship with the United States-the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — falters, and after Ottawa announced it would sign onto the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), reported news agency.

In addition to Paraguay, the bloc includes Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Canada currently trades about Can$8 billion (US$6 billion) annually with the Mercosur bloc, which is the second-largest in the hemisphere after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

This is dwarfed by bilateral Canada-US trade which topped Can$780 billion (US$621 billion) last year, with 70 percent of Canadian exports going to its southern neighbor, according to Canadian government figures.

But after six rounds of “slow” talks to revamp NAFTA, which Washington has threatened to dump, the future of Canada’s preferential access to the US market is now in doubt, with the parties deadlocked over Washington’s hardening protectionist stance.

Canada already has free trade deals with several South American nations including Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile.