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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 22:31 GMT 23:31 UK
Nafta talks tackle trade issues
Protestors in Ottawa gather ahead of the Nafta summit
Protestors will get nowhere near the site of the meeting
Talks between the US, Mexico and Canada in Quebec have ended after two days of discussions on trade and security.

However the impact of Hurricane Dean dominated the event, with Mexican President Felipe Calderon offered help by his country's northern neighbours.

Keeping borders secure while allowing goods and services to flow freely was key on the agenda.

And in the wake of a recall of Chinese made toys by Mattel, the nations agreed to block imports of unsafe toys.

Protectionist sentiment

The three countries are part of a trading bloc - the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) - and have been holding summits as a trio since 2005.

NAFTA FACTS
Started in 1994
Allows free trade between US, Canada and Mexico
Trade between partners grew at over 10% per year
Side agreements regulate environment, labour
Critics say 1m US manufacturing jobs were lost

However activists and academics have been critical of a perceived lack of openness.

More than 2,000 people turned up to protest on the first day of the talks, with critics fearing that a stronger Nafta would come at the cost of national sovereignty.

In the United States opponents have argued that Nafta has undermined manufacturing jobs, despite generating $700bn in trilateral trade.

Police blocked demonstrations within 15 miles of the summit complex.

Demonstrators had marched to the Canadian Parliament on Sunday in protest against the Iraq war, globalisation and the escalating battle for control of the resource-rich Arctic region.

US President George W Bush said that the relationship between the countries had created political controversy but had "yielded prosperity".

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that the three countries were "independent and interdependent".

"We're committed to working together on mutual security, continued economic growth and expanding our unique North American relationship."

Maude Barlow, from the Council of Canadians pressure group, said Nafta's trade and security partnership was "a blueprint for the wrong model in North America".

"The whole world is rejecting this notion of unlimited growth," she said.

Critics of Nafta and other free trade deals argue that they have destroyed jobs in poorer countries and damaged the environment.

Trade between the three partners has increased by more than 10% a year since the agreement, which paved the way for tariffs to be cut on key products, was ratified in 1994.

Growing protectionist sentiment in Washington has meant Nafta and other free trade agreements have come under growing scrutiny.

Leading Democrat presidential candidates have all attacked the agreement as unfair because US labour laws more strictly enforced than those of its trading partners.

There is also unease about Nafta in Mexico with farmers opposed to the imminent liberalisation of the maize industry to corn imports from the US.




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