January 24, 2019

Trump comments on NAFTA negotiations

12 January 2018, 03:35 | Devin Moran

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Media reports say that Canada is "increasingly convinced" that U.S. President Donald Trump will abandon renegotiation talks and announce that he is initiating the withdrawal process from NAFTA.

Champagne and Freeland spoke to reporters before the beginning of a two-day Cabinet retreat in London, Ontario.

Trump has said he will withdraw from NAFTA if the accord can not be renegotiated in favour of the United States.

Mexico has threatened to withdraw from the negotiations if the USA invokes the provision. "So Canada is prepared for every eventuality and that is a whole-of-government preparation", she said. Trump told the Journal that he was leaving the negotiations "a little bit flexible" for the time being, because of Mexico's upcoming presidential election.

Though observers in Canada and Mexico have become increasingly gloomy about the upcoming January 23-28 Montreal round in recent weeks, some took heart from a recent speech made by Trump to farmers this week in which he held back from provocative comments about the trade deal. Numerous bread-and-butter, business chapters are reaching a closing stage, and officials are developing new, creative ideas to respond to "unconventional" USA proposals, she said.

"I understand that a lot of things are hard to negotiate prior to an election", Trump said.

"I think the American colleagues understand when you stand strong in sending a message that said, 'We will stand up for the forest industry, we will stand up for the aerospace industry, we'll stand up for Canadian workers", Champagne said. "You get respect when people see you are firm".

Freeland insisted NAFTA talks are on a separate track from the ongoing dispute with the US over softwood lumber.

His comments were made a day after Canada filed with the World Trade Organization (WTO) almost 200 complaints that Americans breeched global trade rules.

Guajardo was in Washington for talks this week with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer over the modernisation of NAFTA, according to a statement by Mexico's Economy Ministry.

Neither Freeland nor Finance Minister Bill Morneau would discuss what preparations the government is making for the potential end of NAFTA.

"We are going to Washington to show that Canadians speak with one voice when it comes to the important matter of trade with the United States", she told guest host Terry Milewski.

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