Friday deadline not firm: Trudeau
Prime minister says Canada won’t be rushed into bad deal
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is signalling that Canada won’t be rushed into a bad deal just to meet Donald Trump’s Friday deadline for preserving the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“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 on Wednesday.
“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.”
Trump announced a bilateral deal with Mexico on Monday and has pressured Ottawa to join the new agreement by Friday — otherwise he says he will impose devastating tariffs on Canada’s auto sector.
Trudeau’s comments came shortly after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland expressed optimism over the “intense” talks now under way in the accelerated search compromise on NAFTA.
But she also cautioned that more tough talks lie ahead.
“When it comes to specific issues, we have a huge amount of work to do this week at the ministerial level and also officials are really grinding through extremely intensively,” the minister said as she emerged from the high-stakes meeting with her U.S. counterpart in Washington.
Freeland emphasized the “compromises” Mexico has made in agreeing to increase the wages of its auto workers. She suggested that bodes well for progress but she cautioned much more work needs to be done.
Freeland has credited the Mexicans for their difficult decision to compromise on labour and wages as part of its auto rules of origin talks with the U.S., saying it has cleared the way for more substantive talks between Washington and Ottawa.
“There are some important things we believe we have accomplished together with the United States and thanks to some significant compromises Mexico was prepared to make to support Canadian workers,” Freeland said after her morning meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“This is a really important step for us and it has set the stage for very intensive conversations and negotiations that we’re going to have this week.”
Freeland said the higher Mexican wages would result in “better conditions for working people in Canada and also in the United States in high wage countries.” She added: “Our workers have been concerned for a long time — it was one of our election issues — about the ways in which trade agreements can harm blue collar workers in high wage countries.”
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks to the media as she arrives to the Office of the United States Trade Representative to continue talks on trade Wednesday in Washington.