No deal? That beats a bad deal: PM
But as NAFTA deadline looms closer, both Trudeau and Trump express optimism
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.