Canada's foreign minister keeps scribbling notes on her hand, and they could provide clues about the NAFTA talks

  • Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has appeared at press events with notes scribbled on her hands.
  • The notes appear to be connected to Canada’s foreign policy concerns and the talks around the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s note-taking habits may be providing insights into the tense North American Free Trade Agreement talks – and her schedule.

Over the past week, the chief NAFTA negotiator for Canada has spoken to reporters on two different occasions with notes scribbled on her hand. The scribblings may be a clue into outstanding issues in the talks, as well as Freeland’s agenda with US lawmakers.

On Wednesday, photographers snapped a picture of Freeland’s left hand after talks with US and Mexico trade officials. The notes included “Iran,” “Pompeo,” and what appeared to be “last night.” Those were likely references to a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal.

On Friday, following trilateral meetings with the US and Mexico’s negotiators, Freeland spoke to reporters about the status of the talks to update the 24-year-old free trade deal. Once again Freeland had five words on her hand:

  • Caltrain
  • Mayfair
  • Sunset
  • BBQ
  • Rohingya (a reference to the crisis in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar)

While some of the terms do not appear to be directly related to NAFTA, others may give a clue to some of the hangups in the talks.

Here’s a rundown on the possible NAFTA connections for each term:

  • Caltrain: The San Francisco-area public-transit system recently began to roll out new cars made by the Canadian industrial firm Bombardier. Trade barriers on autos and other large industrial items have been central to the NAFTA talks.
  • Sunset: One of the biggest sticking points in the recent round of NAFTA talks was the proposed inclusion of a sunset clause. The clause would force the three NAFTA nations to reevaluate, and possibly terminate, the deal every five years. The US is pushing for the clause, while Canada and Mexico are opposed. They say the clause would increase economic uncertainty and damage their economies.
  • Mayfair: An event in Freeland’s riding (the term for a parliamentary district in Canada) called the Mayfair takes place this weekend.
  • BBQ: The US is the No. 1 destination for Canadian pork. According to the Canadian Pork Council, $US1.4 billion worth of pork is sent to the US every year. There’s also a long-running dispute between the US and Canada over America’s labelling of the origin of meat products. Alternatively, there’s a barbecue Friday night at the Mayfair event in Freeland’s riding, but a spokesperson said the minster is not attending.

The spokesperson for Freeland told Business Insider that they were not aware of the hand notes’ meanings.

Negotiations over NAFTA are ongoing, though House Speaker Paul Ryan set a May 17 deadline in order for Congress to approve it this year. The three countries still need to settle a number of issues in the short window.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.