US-Canada trade talks at a stalemate

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON

Sep 2, 2018-

Negotiations between Canada and the United States on a continental trade pact were abruptly halted without a deal on Friday but will resume next week, Canadian and US sources said.

The US and Mexico have already reached an agreement, potentially leaving Canada out in the cold if no deal is reached, but Ottawa’s foreign minister insisted that a “win-win-win” accord is within reach.

“We will resume negotiations next week,” a Canadian official close to the talks said, after Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland left the US trade representative’s offices in Washington.

“We know that a win-win-win agreement is within reach,” Freeland herself told reporters after a week of talks to rewrite the 25-year-old US-Canada-Mexico North American Free Trade Agreement. However, she repeated that Canada will only sign an agreement that is in its national interest.

Officials are due to reconvene on Wednesday.

“We’ll keep talking until we reach a good deal,” Freeland said. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s office also issued a statement, saying the negotiations over the past four days were “constructive, and we made progress.

“Our officials are continuing to work toward agreement. The USTR team will meet with Minister Freeland and her colleagues Wednesday of next week,” said the statement.

Lighthizer said the White House had informed Congress Friday that it intends to sign a new free trade deal with Mexico—and possibly with Canada—within 90 days.

He said the agreement will have “huge benefits for our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”

As negotiations went down to the wire earlier on Friday, there were reports the sides were struggling to find compromise on a mechanism for resolving trade disputes and on Canada’s managed dairy market. Then the Toronto Star reported that Trump boasted in an interview that he was playing hardball with Canada in the negotiations

“If I say no—the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal... I can’t kill these people,” the newspaper quoted Trump as saying off-the-record during an interview with Bloomberg.

The Star said officials in the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had been optimistic about reaching a deal with Washington, were angered by the reported comments which they saw as confirmation the US was not negotiating in good faith.

Trump’s public statements in the interview and elsewhere have been more positive, although he has frequently criticised Canada’s high dairy tariffs and insisted the US will demand changes.

Trump lashed out on Twitter for what he said was a breach of an off-the-record agreement, but he confirmed that he was taking a hardline stance in the talks.

“Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED. Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it,” Trump tweeted. “At least Canada knows where I stand!”

Published: 02-09-2018 08:57

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