- The Trump administration set a deadline of Sunday for Canada to agree to a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
- To step up the pressure, President Donald Trump and US officials threatened to leave Canada behind and sign a bilateral deal with Mexico unless the Canadians agree to a deal by the deadline.
- The pressure appears to be working as reports indicate the two sides are closing in on a deal.
- But there are still several issues outstanding, including dairy tariffs and trade-dispute resolution.
The US and Canada are reportedly working furiously to reach a deal over revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The intense negotiations come hours before the Trump administration’s Sunday deadline for Canada to sign on to a new bilateral trade deal between the US and Mexico. Absent an agreement, the administration threatened the two countries will move forward without their northern neighbor.
This also represents a major turnaround from earlier in the week when Trump hurled insults at his Canadian counterparts during a press conference, prompting a strong reply from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While no deal is guaranteed, the two sides appear to be closing in on the the NAFTA rewrite.
Pressure to get a deal done
The US-imposed deadline was designed to secure a deal before Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto leaves office on December 1. The law under which the US is renegotiating NAFTA requires Trump to notify Congress 60 days before a signature, so Sunday appeared to be the last day to get Canada into the deal to ensure Nieto can sign the agreement.
The Trump administration is hoping to avoid the possible reopening of negotiations by Nieto’s successor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which could add more political uncertainty.
Early signs that progress was being made came Friday when the release of the US-Mexico bilateral trade deal’s official text was pushed back with little explanation. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told reporters after announcing the delay that the US and Canada were attempting to reach an agreement in the short-term.
“At this moment there’s a very serious attempt to continue advancing in the process of finalizing the differences in bilateral issues between the U.S. and Canada,” Guajardo said.
Rumblings that progress was being made grew louder when Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs and the country’s chief negotiator in the NAFTA talks, pushed back a planned speech at the United Nations on Saturday in order to continue talks.
Freeland, as well as other key Canadian officials, returned to the capital of Ottawa on Saturday to make progress on negotiations.
US threatened to move on without Canada
The growing possibility of a deal comes after Trump’s team attempted to put pressure on Canada with threats to move forward with the bilateral US-Mexico deal.
Despite the threats, Canadian officials did not appear ready to make concessions — and the country received the support of some notable allies.
Mexico is not committed to moving forward with the US on an exclusively bilateral basis and incoming president López Obrador told reporters on Friday that his administration would push Trump to maintain the trilateral nature of NAFTA.
Also bolstering Canada’s position are US lawmakers in both parties. Both Republicans and Democrats have stressed that a bilateral deal between the US and Mexico will likely not get the votes needed to ratify the agreement and Canada should stay in the deal.
A turnaround from Trump’s attacks
The possible deal also comes as a surprise given earlier pessimism that an agreement could be reached before the deadline and the barbs traded between Trump and Trudeau earlier in the week.
When asked about the state of NAFTA negotiations with Canada, Trump told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that he rejected a request for a meeting from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Because his tariffs are too high, he doesn’t seem to want to move and I’ve told him forget about it,” Trump said when asked why he turned Trudeau down. “And frankly we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada, that’s the mother load, that’s the big one. We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada.”
Trudeau’s office told Business Insider that they made no request for a meeting.
Trump also took a shot at Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs and the country’s chief negotiator in the NAFTA talks.
“We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada. We don’t like their representative very much,” Trump said.
Trudeau pushed back on Trump’s comments about Freeland and the state of negotiations on Thursday.
“The Americans are finding that negotiations are tough because Canadians are tough negotiators, as we should be,” Trudeau told reporters. “A good and fair deal is still possible, but we won’t sign a deal that is bad for Canadians.”
Several outstanding issues
Even in the face of the Trump administration’s pressure, Canada seemed to be sticking strong on a handful of thorny issues and its unclear where the two sides have come out on these problems.
According Canadian and US officials over the past few weeks, the biggest issues going into the talks were:
- Canada’s dairy protections: A particular sore spot for Trump, the US is demanding that Canada give American dairy farmers more access to its market. Canada wants to keep the protections in part due to the political influence of its country’s farmers.
- Trade protection: Another major sticking point is Canada’s desire to keep Chapter 19 of the NAFTA deal, which created an extrajudicial dispute resolution process that allows member countries to contest particular trade policies of other members. In fact, Trudeau suggested that Canada needs Chapter 19 to protect itself against Trump’s volatile behavior.
- Auto tariffs: According to reports, Canada is also seeking assurances that Trump will not impose tariffs on imports of cars and auto parts from the country as the president has threatened.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.