Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s FM, calls NAFTA talks ‘constructive’ but still no deal

September 5, 2018

Canada’s top trade negotiator stepped out of high-stakes talks with the Trump administration Wednesday to say that the dialogue was “constructive” but had yet to hit upon a deal.

The talks to remake the North American Free Trade Agreement resumed after grinding to a halt last week.

“We continue to work hard,” Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters camped outside the talks in Washington. “The atmosphere continues to be constructive and positive. There is good faith and good will on both sides.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LIghtizer and Ms. Freeland are the chief dealmakers at the table. But on the sidelines, President Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have dug into seemingly irreconcilable positions.

The talks resume after negotiators failed to strike a deal before Mr. Trump’s Friday deadline for Canada to join a tentative U.S.-Mexico pact that would replace the three-way NAFTA.

Without Canada on board, the U.S.-Mexico deal faces a steeper climb and big pitfalls in Congress. But Mr. Trump insists he’s ready to jettison Canada, which he accuses of “decades of abuse” on trade.

He notified Congress that he was moving ahead with a U.S.-Mexico deal to replace NAFTA, possibly without Canada. And if Canada is out, Mr. Trump said he would hit them with a 25 percent tariff on cars.

Canada wants a guarantee that Mr. Trump won’t proceed with auto tariffs and relief from recent tariffs the U.S. slapped on steel and aluminum.

The U.S. is pushing for Canada to lower high tariffs on dairy, which run up to 300 percent, and changes to the dispute resolution mechanism in NAFTA’s Chapter 19.

The U.S.-Mexico deal nixed Chapter 19, and Canada wants it back to challenge U.S. tariffs on lumber, newsprint, steel and aluminum.

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