Canada, U.S. conclude NAFTA talks after Trump’s comment sours mood
By Julie Gordon, Sharay Angulo and Allison Martell
WASHINGTON/TORONTO, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Canada and the United States ended talks on Friday to update the North American Free Trade Agreement in a mood that had been soured by President Donald Trump’s comments that a pact would be on U.S. terms while Ottawa stood firm against signing “just any deal.”
Canada’s lead negotiator and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is scheduled to hold a press conference at 4:30 P.M. Eastern Time Friday (2030 GMT). It was unclear whether the two countries had agreed a deal.
Trump confirmed off-the-record remarks he made to Bloomberg News this week that any trade deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms”. The Toronto Star first reported on the remarks citing remarks it had obtained.
“At least Canada knows where I stand,” he later said on Twitter.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Freeland resumed talks for a fourth day on Friday. Mexico was on standby to return to discussions aimed at ending a year of hard-fought negotiations on the three-way North American Free Trade Agreement.
Canadian stocks turned lower following the Toronto Star report, dropping to a two-week low, and the Canadian dollar weakened. Global equities were also down following the hawkish turn in Trump’s comments on trade.
Lighthizer has refused to budge despite repeated efforts by Freeland to offer some dairy concessions to maintain the Chapter 19 independent trade dispute resolution mechanism in NAFTA, The Globe and Mail reported on Friday.
However, a spokeswoman for USTR said Canada had made no concessions on agriculture, which includes dairy, but added that negotiations continued.
The United States wants to eliminate Chapter 19, the mechanism that has hindered it from pursuing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. Lighthizer said on Monday Mexico had agreed to cut the mechanism. For Ottawa, Chapter 19 is a red line.
But Freeland said earlier on Friday her team is “not there yet” in resolving still big differences.
“We’re looking for a good deal, not just any deal. And we’ll only agree to a deal that is a good deal for Canada,” Freeland told reporters.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon and Sharay Angulo in Washington, Allison Martell in Toronto, Additional reporting by David Lawder in Washington, Veronica Gomez in Mexico City and Allison Lampert in Montreal Writing by Denny Thomas Editing by Paul Tait and Susan Thomas)
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