Lib­er­als look­ing for right NAFTA deal, Trudeau says

The Prince George Citizen - - News -

SASKATOON — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau brushed aside pres­sure for his govern­ment to fi­nal­ize a re­newed free trade deal with the United States by month’s end, com­ment­ing hours be­fore Mex­ico piled on more pres­sure by say­ing they are also will­ing to cut Canada out of the pact.

Ot­tawa and Wash­ing­ton are work­ing to reach an agree­ment that needs to be sub­mit­ted to the U.S. Congress by Oct. 1 in or­der to join the deal the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion signed with Mex­ico in Au­gust.

Trudeau says Canada’s ne­go­tia­tors have seen mul­ti­ple dead­lines im­posed on talks, only to see ne­go­ti­a­tions con­tinue long past them.

Speak­ing to re­porters at a cau­cus re­treat, the prime min­is­ter said ne­go­tia­tors will work to fi­nal­ize an agree­ment be­fore the end of the month, but plan to make sure they get the right deal for Cana­di­ans, not just any deal.

“We have seen var­i­ous dead­lines put for­ward as mark­ers to work for,” Trudeau said.

“We’re go­ing to con­tinue to work to­wards the right deal for Cana­di­ans, a good deal for Cana­di­ans, and we’ll do the work needed and try and get there as quick as we can, but we’re go­ing to make sure we’re do­ing what is nec­es­sary to get the right deal for Cana­di­ans.”

Trump has in­di­cated he would be quite happy to go for­ward on a deal with Mex­ico alone, and while Mex­ico has in­sisted it wants Canada to be in the plan, Mex­i­can chief ne­go­tia­tor Ken­neth Smith Ramos tweeted late Thurs­day that Mex­ico is fine with a bi­lat­eral deal as well.

“Mex­ico stated from the be­gin­ning of the ne­go­ti­a­tion that the ideal sce­nario is for NAFTA to re­main tri­lat­eral,” he wrote.

“We hope the U.S. and Canada will con­clude their bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tion shortly.

“If that is not pos­si­ble we are ready to ad­vance bi­lat­er­ally with the US.”

Trudeau’s com­ments came at the end of a cau­cus re­treat aimed at plot­ting strat­egy for next week’s re­sump­tion of Par­lia­ment and lay­ing the ground work for the run up to next year’s fed­eral elec­tion.

Trudeau kicked off the re­treat on Wed­nes­day with a dis­tinct elec­tion flavour, tout­ing the govern­ment’s record on aid for Canada’s mid­dle class and stat­ing em­phat­i­cally that his party will al­ways stand up for the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms.

At his clos­ing press con­fer­ence, Trudeau spoke of his govern­ment’s plan to in­tro­duce pay eq­uity leg­is­la­tion – first promised in this year’s bud­get – and rat­ify a trade agree­ment with Pa­cific Rim na­tions, in­clud­ing Mex­ico.

He said the Lib­er­als will also stay fo­cused on NAFTA talks, started last year at the be­hest of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, to strengthen “the most suc­cess­ful trad­ing re­la­tion­ship per­haps in the world.”

The out­come of ne­go­ti­a­tions, now in their 13th month, will de­ter­mine the eco­nomic and trade re­la­tion­ship be­tween the three North Amer­i­can coun­tries, with nu­mer­ous work­ers’ and in­dus­tries’ prospects hang­ing in the bal­ance.

Trump has threat­ened to forge ahead with a deal with Mex­ico if Canada can’t come on board by the Sept. 30 dead­line to pro­vide Congress with a pre­lim­i­nary text of an agree­ment.

Al­ready, Congress is in a 90-day win­dow to re­view the one-on-one deal with Mex­ico, which both sides want to have signed be­fore Dec. 1 when Mex­ico gets a new pres­i­dent.

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported Thurs­day that Trump mused about re­nam­ing the trade pact “USMC” – with “M” re­fer­ring to Mex­ico and “C” for Canada-based on his dis­dain for the NAFTA moniker.

The re­port said Trump groused about Canada’s ne­go­tia­tors and ex­pressed his frus­tra­tion with the neigh­bour to the North.

He re­port­edly said he was will­ing to go ahead with a “USM” deal and drop the “C” if Canada didn’t sign on.

Trudeau said he has given lit­tle thought to the name of a re­newed trade agree­ment, fo­cused in­stead of “a broad range of is­sues” in talks that “will have a di­rect im­pact on Cana­di­ans’ jobs, on our eco­nomic growth and our prospects.

“These are things that we’re work­ing on very se­ri­ously, rolling up our sleeves on. I don’t think we’ve spent much time talk­ing about what the name or po­ten­tial name or re­nam­ing could be,” he said.

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