Canada not making concessions needed for NAFTA deal, U.S. says
(Adds comments by spokesman for Canadian foreign minister)
By David Lawder
NEW YORK, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Canada is not making
concessions needed to reach a deal with the United States for a
trilateral NAFTA pact and is running out of time before
Washington proceeds with a Mexico-only agreement, a top U.S.
official said on Tuesday.
The administration of President Donald Trump recently began
increasing the pressure on Canada, urging it to conclude a deal
by Sunday or face exclusion from a revised North American Free
A spokesman for Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland
brushed off the latest remarks from the U.S., saying Canada was
not interested in focusing on timelines.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said there was
"some distance" between the two sides on issues such as access
to Canada's dairy market and how best to settle trade disputes.
"The fact is, Canada is not making concessions in areas
where we think they're essential," he said at the Concordia
Summit in New York.
"We're going to go ahead with Mexico," he said. "If Canada
comes along now, that would be the best. If Canada comes along
later, then that's what will happen."
He added: "We're sort of running out of time."
But Freeland's spokesmanm, Adam Austen, said Canada would
only sign a good deal.
"Our focus is the substance, not timelines. We will continue
to negotiate with a view to getting a deal that is in Canada’s
national interest," he said.
Lighthizer and Freeland are in New York for a U.N. meeting
but it is unclear whether they will meet.
U.S. automakers and congressional aides now believe a deal
with Canada is not possible by the deadline, which they said
would most likely prompt the United States to move ahead with a
bilateral agreement with Mexico.
But they also predicted new talks with Canada in another
attempt to settle outstanding issues before the signing with
Mexico, which would be set for Nov. 30.
The Trump administration has said the text of an agreement
is needed by Sunday to allow the current Mexican government to
sign it before it leaves office at the end of November.
Trump has demanded major changes to NAFTA, which he has said
caused U.S. manufacturing jobs to move to low-wage Mexico.
Markets are nervous about the impact on a deal that underpins
$1.2 trillion in annual trade.
Canadian officials have said that despite the U.S. threats
to go it alone with Mexico, they do not believe Trump can by
himself turn the 1994 pact into a bilateral deal.
U.S. business groups, alarmed by the potential disruption to
the three increasingly integrated economies, have lobbied the
White House to keep NAFTA as a trilateral deal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has repeatedly
stated he would rather walk away from NAFTA than sign a bad
deal, spoke before Lighthizer at an event hosted by the Council
on Foreign Relations in New York and took a more cautious tone.
"They (the United States and Mexico) made certain
agreements," he said. "I think there's a possibility there to
build on what they agreed."
"With Mexico, we're not going to say: 'No deal' because of
Canada," Lighthizer said. "That doesn't make any sense at all,
so hopefully we'll end up with something with Canada."
Canada also has made clear the United States needs to
withdraw Trump's threat of a 25 percent tariff on autos for a
deal to be possible.
The United States, citing security reasons, imposed tariffs
on Canadian steel and aluminum in late May. Lighthizer said
those tariffs would be addressed once NAFTA had been completed.
(Reporting by David Lawder in New York; Additional reporting by
David Ljunggren in Ottawa and David Shepardson in Washington;
Writing by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Cooney)
First Published: 2018-09-26 00:10:56
Updated 2018-09-26 00:47:54
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