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Freeland sits down with U.S. negotiators for tough NAFTA talks

Last Updated Aug 29, 2018 at 7:43 am PDT

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks at a press conference in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday, August 6, 2018 as MP Randy Boissonnault looks on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jimmy Jeong

WASHINGTON – Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is in high-stakes meetings with her U.S. counterpart this morning in Washington as part of an accelerated search for areas of compromise to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Freeland cancelled her trip to Europe this week to return to the NAFTA bargaining table after the U.S. and Mexico agreed on numerous trade issues throughout their bilateral, summertime talks.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the deal with Mexico on Monday and has pressured Canada to join new agreement by Friday — otherwise he says he will impose devastating tariffs on Canada’s auto sector.

After being absent from a month of U.S.-Mexican discussions, Canada’s team is back in full force in the American capital for the first time since the spring and Freeland says the negotiators are intensively focused on finding new areas of compromise.

On her way in to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer this morning, Freeland said she and her officials had already been hard at work since the crack of dawn, meeting with Mexican negotiators and working the phones.

Freeland says the Mexicans’ tough decision to compromise on labour and wages as part of its auto rules of origin talks with the U.S. has cleared the way for more substantive talks between Washington and Ottawa.

There are now big questions whether Canada is willing to open up access to its controversial supply-managed dairy market or if it will back away from its hard line to preserve NAFTA’s dispute settlement system.

The U.S. has demanded that Canada move off its line on both issues as well as others.

Freeland met with the U.S. and Mexican delegations late Tuesday and again early Wednesday morning, and she says she’s hopeful the sides can find common ground — especially now that the U.S. and Mexico have an understanding on how to manage the continental auto industry.

When pressed by reporters, she has not provided details of what Canada might be putting on the table.

Freeland is meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, this morning near the White House.