Canada’s Freeland says ‘we’re not there yet’ on NAFTA deal following report of explosive Trump comments on trade talks

Canada’s top trade negotiator Chrystia Freeland said Friday that “we’re not there yet” on a new North American Free Trade Agreement as the deal’s members reached a key deadline.

Her comments came after a Toronto Star report that Trump privately said he would not make any compromises in trade talks with Canada. In remarks to Bloomberg News reporters that the president wanted to be off the record, Trump said that he would not publicly state his positions because “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal,” according to the Star report.

The Trump administration has given Canada a Friday deadline to hash out its differences with the U.S. and join a preliminary, new trade agreement struck by the U.S. and Mexico earlier in the week. After leaving talks with U.S. officials in the morning in Washington, shortly after the Star report was published, Freeland said the sides had not yet reached an agreement.

“We’re looking for a good deal, not just any deal. We will only agree to a deal that is a good deal for Canada. We’re not there yet,” the Canadian minister of foreign affairs told reporters.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland arrives for trade talks at the office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, DC, August 29, 2018. 

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland arrives for trade talks at the office of the US Trade Representative in Washington, DC, August 29, 2018. 

President Donald Trump has sought to revise the three-nation trade agreement, which he says has punished American workers since it went into effect more than 20 years ago. The president has used tariffs on Canadian and Mexican goods to bring the countries to the negotiating table and wants them to drop their own barriers on certain products.

The U.S. has focused in particular on Canada’s agricultural policy, which Trump contends has unfairly curbed sales of U.S. dairy products there. He also aims to boost American farmers in Midwestern states who helped to propel him to the White House. Many of those farmers have taken a hit from the effects of the White House’s mounting trade conflicts with China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

In a statement earlier Friday, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said that talks are “ongoing” and “there have been no concessions by Canada on agriculture.”

Speaking in Canada as the talks were ongoing, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he would defend Canada’s management of dairy supply. He noted that Canada would only sign a “good” NAFTA deal.

Trump’s comments reported by the Star are unlikely to help the sides move closer to a deal. In the interview with Bloomberg, he reportedly said he wanted a potential deal to be “totally on our terms.”

He added that “every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala.” Trump is referencing his threats to impose tariffs on Canadian automobiles and parts.

Bloomberg did not report Trump’s remarks, and it is unclear how the Star found out about them. Daniel Dale, the Star reporter who wrote the story, tweeted that the White House did not dispute their authenticity.

In a statement, White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said “the Canadian and American negotiators continue to work on reaching a win-win deal that benefits both countries.”

On Wednesday, Trump said he was “optimistic” Canada would join the trade agreement.

This entry was posted in Politics and Government. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply