NAFTA talks break off, will resume next week
OTTAWA -- The week-long intensive NAFTA renegotiations have concluded in Washington, D.C., without a deal by the Trump-imposed deadline, but talks will resume next week.
In the meantime, the Canadian delegation is expected to return to Canada for the long weekend, after early optimism that a deal would be made by week’s end.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she is still confident an agreement can be reached, but would not comment on the remaining sticking points.
"Once we have a good deal for Canada, we’ll be done," Freeland told reporters at the Canadian embassy.
The break in the talks comes after U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to confirm a report that he will not make any compromises with Canada.
His comments surfaced on the day he set as the deadline for Canada to come to an agreement on updating the major trade deal. A report in the Toronto Star cited an unnamed source who said that Trump told Bloomberg News on Thursday he will not make any compromises at all when it comes to NAFTA. The report added that Trump would not say so publicly because it would insult Canada out of making a deal.
The report also stated that Trump said the deal would be made "totally" on American terms.
In a tweet, Trump said the comments were made off the record, but that "at least Canada knows where I stand."
Subsequently, speaking at an event in North Carolina, Trump re-stated that he made the statement about Canada.
"Which is fine, because I love Canada, but they've taken advantage of our country for many years. They have tremendous, tremendous trade barriers, and they have tremendous tariffs," said Trump. "I said something strong, but it is my belief… It’s fine."
Freeland faced several questions about Trump’s remarks from reporters who have been staking out the meetings for days. While not addressing it directly, Freeland said both sides have been working hard for a deal.
"Our starting positions at the beginning were very far apart. I think at this point we know what each side needs… my job is to find the deal that works for Canada and I'm working very hard to do that," Freeland said earlier Friday, re-asserting the importance of the trade relationship between the two countries.
Following up on whether or not she thinks the Americans are negotiating in good faith, in light of Trump’s remarks, Freeland said: “Canada will only sign a deal that is a good deal for Canada,” and that amid the intensity of the negotiations, the U.S. team “absolutely do bring good faith and good will to the negotiating table.”
"We now understand each other’s positions very well and very clearly and we’re working hard to find those win-win compromises that we're going to need," said Freeland.
Trump going ahead with Mexico deal
After announcing a deal with Mexico -- the other country in the trilateral trade deal --Trump gave Friday as the deadline for Canada to join them, as he intends to inform congress of the pact, something that has to be done 90 days before the deal can be signed.
In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Trump notified Congress Friday that he intends to sign a trade agreement with Mexico, "and Canada, if it is willing," 90 days from now.
"We have also been negotiating with Canada throughout this year-long process. This week those meetings continued at all levels. The talks 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."
In a copy of the letter Trump sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the President of the Senate, Trump said he intends to initiate trade negotiations with both countries, and enter the agreement by the end of November 2018, saying that “dramatic progress” has been made related to several areas.
Among them, Trump includes: fairer market conditions for American farmers; tough environmental and labour rules; and, enhanced innovation and intellectual property protections.
"In short, this agreement is a great deal for the American people. It sets a new tone for all trade agreements, proof of the high standard that my Administration will require of any country entering a new trade agreement with the United States," Trump said in the letter.
There is now a 30-day window for the president to present the text of the deal to Congress, meaning that’s the next deadline Canada is facing. The U.S. has indicated that it is prepared to move forward with the deal, whether it’s a bilateral or trilateral text they submit for Congress to review.
No deal better than bad deal: Trudeau
Earlier this week, officials on both sides indicated optimism that a deal could be imminent, but as of Friday morning, according to a written statement from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, Canada had not made any concessions on U.S. dairy access.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not yet signaled any intention of heading stateside, starting his day off with an event in Oshawa. There, Trudeau asserted that Canada will stand up for Canadian interests and is approaching the negotiations seriously, and in good faith.
"Over the past number of days we’ve had some very positive conversations on a broad range of issues and we have been very clear about where our red lines are, we’ve been very clear about where we think there’s room for give and take," Trudeau said. He also stated that "no deal is better than a bad deal for Canada and for Canadians and that's exactly what we're remaining firm on."
Before Friday’s developments, Freeland's messaging this week had been more positive than what she was saying approximately six months ago, when she said that Canada’s approach was: "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, so Canada is prepared for every eventuality."
NAFTA renegotiations have been ongoing for more than a year now, prompted by Trump’s belief that the deal as signed 24 years ago was unfair to the U.S.
Among those who have been in the room for this week’s talks include Canada’s Ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton, top NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul and their U.S. counterparts, including senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner and U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft.
Over the course of the talks there have been several moments where it seemed a deal was imminent, with just as many times the prospect of ever coming to an agreement that all sides could live with seemed hard to envision. Peppered between these moments have been: concerted cross-border lobbying efforts; the exchange of steel and aluminum tariffs between Canada and the U.S.; stock market fluctuations; personal attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; eye-raising commentary offered from former prime minister Stephen Harper; and numerous Trump threats that the deal will be dismantled and traded out for two bilateral agreements.
At the start of the process, Canada announced its key objectives in the talks were to get a fair, modernized deal that included stronger labour and environmental protections, as well as entirely new “progressive” chapters on gender and Indigenous rights. It is unclear where those stand, with bigger sticking points dominating the discussions.
The main areas of contention that have arisen through the deliberations have been: rules of origin for autos; the dispute resolution mechanisms; supply managed dairy; and the prospect of the deal including a sunset clause.
With files from CTV News’ Glen McGregor, Michel Boyer, and The Canadian Press