OTTAWA/WASHINGTON • Mr Robert Lighthizer was the public face of the arduous, year-long talks to rework Nafta, but as he savoured a successful conclusion, the United States trade representative singled out another man as the deal's architect.
"I've said before, and I'll say again, this agreement would not have happened if it wasn't for Jared," Mr Lighthizer said in the White House Rose Garden on Monday.
The 70-year-old veteran negotiator was referring to Mr Jared Kushner, more than 30 years his junior and Mr Donald Trump's son-in-law, whom the President had asked to help out on trade early in the presidency, especially on Canada and Mexico.
While Mr Kushner's time in the White House has been turbulent - he was temporarily stripped him of his security clearance earlier this year by chief of staff John Kelly and been criticised for his dealings with the Middle East - his role in keeping the North American Trade Agreement (Nafta) afloat was fundamental, multiple sources said.
A 37-year-old real estate tycoon married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, Mr Kushner has the trust of his father-in-law and, crucially, is close to Mr Lighthizer, said a Canadian source with knowledge of the talks.
His friendship with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, whom he knows from Wall Street, helped diffuse several blow-ups in that relationship and get a US-Mexican deal over the finishing line in August, another source close to the talks said.
"The deal fell apart more than once. And in every occasion it was one person that always found a way to put it back together: Jared Kushner," Mr Videgaray told Reuters.
The deal fell apart more than once. And in every occasion it was one person that always found a way to put it back together: Jared Kushner.
MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER LUIS VIDEGARAY
Speaking at a news conference on Monday to announce the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Mr Trump said: "There was a lot of tension, I will say, between he (Canadian President Justin Trudeau) and I."
"And it's all worked out. You know when it ended?"
About 12 o'clock last night, said Mr Trump, just before the deadline for the agreement.