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Canada not waiting for US and Mexico to talk trade with Europe

(Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Canada's foreign affairs minister plans to head to Europe to speak with trade negotiators ahead of NAFTA talks

Chrystia Freeland is rejecting suggestions trilateral negotiations on NAFTA are stalled with Mexico and the US

RICHMOND (NEWS1130) – As she waits for isolated talks between the US and Mexico to wrap up, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister plans to meet with European trade negotiators.

Chrystia Freeland says next week’s trip to Germany and France will include talk about trade.

“So these are important relationships. Canada has key alliances around the world. Our allies in Europe are particularly important to us today.”

She’s also confirmed no date has been set for Canada’s next round of NAFTA talks, but she’s rejecting suggestions trilateral negotiations are stalled with Mexico and the US.

“They seem encouraged and optimistic about the progress they’ve been making in resolving their bilateral issues and the three countries have agreed that once those bilateral issues get resolved, Canada will be joining the talks to work on both bilateral issues and also our trilateral issues.”

Freeland adds she’s not feeling left out as separate trade talks continue between the US and Mexico.

“The US/Mexican issues inside NAFTA are really complicated and we welcome the fact that the US and Mexico are rolling up their sleeves and devoting a lot of time to resolving those issues. That’s a good thing for the US and Mexico and it’s a good thing for Canada because, in order for the negotiations to move forward, that piece needs to get done. NAFTA is overall a trilateral agreement, but inside that trilateral agreement, there are bilateral trading relationships between the US and Mexico, between the US and Canada, between Canada and Mexico.”

Before talking to reporters, Freeland spent some time with workers at a factory in Richmond already suffering from harsh steel tariffs imposed by the US in June.

She offered Tree Island Steel employees assurances efforts are being made to keep their jobs safe.

“Our government understands the illegal measures have created real challenges for Canadian workers and Canadian businesses and that is why we have made up to two billion dollars available to defend and protect the interests of Canadian workers and businesses.”

One of the workers standing behind her as she spoke was Tony Santavenere — a Teamsters Local 213 union negotiator who says 41 workers have already been laid off.

“I worked in this facility for 20 years. This facility here gave me what I have in my life. It was able for me to raise my family in Vancouver, put my kids through university, so that’s the concern for these people here is they want their jobs.”

He says he wants to believe Freeland when she says efforts are being made to protect jobs.

“What’s comforting a little bit about it is that she’s listening. I think that’s the first step. What they do on the safeguards, we’ll find out down the road. All we can do right now is get her to listen and see what she does with it.”

Santavenere also admits he’s worried about the US working out a separate deal with Mexico that might hurt workers in Canada.