No deal? That beats a bad deal: PM

But as NAFTA dead­line looms closer, both Trudeau and Trump ex­press op­ti­mism

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - ANDY BLATCHFORD

WASH­ING­TON — As the dead­line loomed for a NAFTA deal, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau in­sisted Wed­nes­day: “No NAFTA deal is bet­ter than a bad NAFTA deal.”

As he spoke, the fresh round of U.S.-Canada ne­go­ti­a­tions on the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment gen­er­ated hope­ful sig­nals from both camps.

Both Trudeau and U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ex­pressed op­ti­mism a new con­ti­nen­tal ac­cord could be reached by Fri­day — the dead­line set by the United States.

Trump added a layer of ur­gency to the ne­go­ti­a­tions af­ter an­nounc­ing his deal Mon­day with Mex­ico — with a threat to Canada that it join their pact by Fri­day or suf­fer the con­se­quences of pun­ish­ing tar­iffs on its auto sec­tor.

He also warned that the U.S. and Mex­ico would move for­ward bi­lat­er­ally without Canada.

A cau­tious Trudeau said it was pos­si­ble for a new three-coun­try treaty to come to­gether by week’s end — but he added Canada re­fused to be rushed into a poor deal just to meet Trump’s dead­line.

“We rec­og­nize there is a pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting there by Fri­day, but it is only a pos­si­bil­ity be­cause it will hinge on whether or not there is ul­ti­mately a good deal for Canada, a good deal for Cana­di­ans,” Trudeau said at an event in north­ern On­tario.

“I’ve said from the be­gin­ning no NAFTA deal is bet­ter than a bad NAFTA deal.

“And we are go­ing to re­main firm on that prin­ci­ple be­cause Cana­di­ans ex­pect us to stand up for them.”

The 24-year-old NAFTA has been un­der rene­go­ti­a­tion for more than 12 months.

Cana­dian of­fi­cials say the agree­ment an­nounced be­tween the U.S. and Mex­ico — which in­cludes com­mon ground on the dif­fi­cult is­sue of labour within the auto sec­tor — has bro­ken a log­jam in the talks.

To get to a deal, Canada is un­der pres­sure from the U.S. to com­pro­mise on key is­sues — from open­ing ac­cess to its pro­tected dairy sec­tor, to get­ting rid of NAFTA’s dis­pute set­tle­ment sys­tem, to in­tro­duc­ing a clause that would call for the deal to be rene­go­ti­ated again ev­ery 16 years.

Trudeau’s of­fice sent out a sig­nal later Wed­nes­day that the talks were pro­gress­ing.

His of­fice said the prime min­is­ter will hold a call Thurs­day af­ter­noon with pre­miers to dis­cuss the NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions.

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land will be on the call, as will Canada’s am­bas­sador to the U.S. David MacNaughton and Do­minic LeBlanc, the fed­eral min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs.

Trump, too, was con­fi­dent Wed­nes­day that a deal could be on the way.

“They want to be a part of the deal and we gave un­til Fri­day and I think we’re prob­a­bly on track,” Trump told re­porters.

“We’ll see what hap­pens. But in any event, things are work­ing out very well.”

The U.S. pres­i­dent also noted it would be a bad idea for Canada to let this op­por­tu­nity to join the U.S.-Mex­i­can trade agree­ment slip away.

“I think it’s go­ing to be ob­vi­ously very good for Canada if they do (join) and I think it’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to be good at all if they don’t,” Trump said.

Free­land said Wed­nes­day she was op­ti­mistic about the out­come of the “in­tense” talks now un­der way.

But she also cau­tioned that more tough talks lie ahead.

Asked to com­ment about how was feel­ing about his trad­ing part­ners, Trump said Wed­nes­day: “I love Canada. You know what? I love Mex­ico too.”

Asked which one he likes bet­ter, he said, “I like ’em both the same.”


For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land speaks to the me­dia dur­ing a break from trade talks in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day.

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