Ottawa, ON – Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland heads back to Washington this week to resume face-to-face negotiations with the United States and Mexico regarding NAFTA.
The minister cut short her diplomatic trip to Europe for high-level talks after U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday that the U.S. and Mexico had reached a bilateral trade understanding. Trump implied this agreement could lead to the overhaul or termination of the three-country NAFTA deal.
Trump extended an invitation to Canada to join what he calls American-Mexican trade negotiations. The U.S. president also threatened Canada with devastating tariffs on automotive imports if a trade deal can’t be reached. With Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joining him by speaker phone, Trump stated, “one way or the other, we have a deal with Canada. It will either be a tariff on cars, or it will be a negotiated deal, and frankly a tariff on cars is much easier way to go. But perhaps the other way would be much better for Canada.”
Through an interpreter, Pena Nieto reminded Trump numerous times that he hoped that Canada would be part of an eventual trilateral agreement. Spokesman for Freeland, Adam Austen stated, “Given the encouraging announcement Monday of further bilateral progress between the U.S. and Mexico, Minister Freeland will travel to Washington to continue negotiations.”
However in typical Trump fashion he made the new U.S. – Mexican deal a moving target of uncertainty. Earlier in the day Trump suggested he would terminate the NAFTA pact and replace it. “I like to call this deal the United States-Mexico trade agreement,” Trump said. “I think it’s an elegant name. I think NAFTA has a lot of bad connotations for the United States because it was a rip off.”
This latest development has been feared by many observers because our absence from the talks between Mexico and the U.S. could place Ottawa in a position where it might be subjected to extreme pressure to accept a less-appealing deal. Prime Minister Trudeau has insisted his government would only sign a deal that’s good for Canada.