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'We're not there yet': Freeland pushes for NAFTA deal that is 'good for Canadians'

Last Updated Aug 31, 2018 at 3:37 pm PDT

Summary

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says the feds will not sign a NAFTA agreement unless it's good for Canada

WASHINGTON (NEWS 1130) – NAFTA negotiations have concluded for the long weekend without a deal, but Canada’s minister of foreign affairs believes a good one is still possible.

Chrystia Freeland sidestepped most questions about the talks between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, and would only reveal the parties were inching closer towards reaching some kind of deal.

“But, as certainly the Canadians here have heard me say before, I’m paid in Canadian dollars,” Freeland told reporters. “My job is to ensure that this agreement works for Canadian workers, Canadian families, and Canadian business. The government of Canada will not sign an agreement unless it’s good for Canada and good for Canadians.”

While she said progress is being made, Freeland admits “we’re not there yet.”

“Our objective in these talks is to update and modernize NAFTA in a way that is good for Canadians, good for Americans, and good for Mexicans. We know that a win-win-win agreement is within reach.”

She says with good will and flexibility, that goal can be reached.

Freeland would not offer any details on talks regarding Chapter 19 or dairy — after U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands to give American dairy producers more access to Canada — only saying that both she and U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer would not negotiate in public, “given the absolute intensity of the negotiations” at this time.

When asked how she could negotiate with “a guy like Donald Trump,” Freeland said “My negotiating counter party is Ambassador Lighthizer, and as I said he’s brought good faith and good will to the table.”

Negotiations on Friday were coloured by Trump’s statements to Bloomberg News that any deal would only be on his terms. However, Freeland stood by the claim that the U.S. has been flexible, and has negotiated in good faith.

Trump’s remarks were leaked to the Toronto Star. He confirmed them on Twitter and again at a rally in North Carolina.

According to U.S. officials, Trump has notified Congress that his administration intends to sign a trade agreement in 90 days with Mexico and Canada — if Ottawa decides to join in.

The message was sent after NAFTA talks failed to produce a deal before Trump’s Friday deadline.

Throughout the day, it became increasingly clear that Canada and the U.S. would be unable to reach an agreement. Dispute settlement, Canada’s cultural exemption and access to Canada’s dairy market remain obstacles to a deal.

Lighthizer’s office accused Canada of making no compromises on dairy-market access.

Similarly, Canadian officials told The Canadian Press early on Friday, before Freeland addressed the press, that expectations a NAFTA deal is imminent were exaggerated and premature.

Negotiators are set to return to the bargaining table next Wednesday.