Fri­day dead­line not firm: Trudeau

Prime min­is­ter says Canada won’t be rushed into bad deal

The Western Star - - WEATHER - BY ANDY BLATCHFORD

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.”

AP PHOTO

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.

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