Freeland expects U.S. to trigger NAFTA consultation period soon
Published Saturday, May 13, 2017 7:34AM EDT
OTTAWA -- Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she hopes to meet with newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer "very soon," and she expects him to trigger the NAFTA pre-negotiation process just as quickly.
In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period, Freeland said she met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shortly after their confirmations, and expects it to be similar with Lighthizer.
"I hope that I'll meet him very soon," Freeland said. "One thing that is important, and I do want to give credit to this U.S. administration, is we have a very good working relationship at the personal level. I think that's a big advantage ... and I'm sure we'll have the same with Ambassador Lighthizer.
U.S. President Donald Trump pledged during the election to renegotiate or pull out of NAFTA, something that's been delayed while the Americans awaited Lighthizer's confirmation as their trade representative. U.S. legislation requires the country to hold a 90-day consultation period before beginning NAFTA talks, Freeland said.
With his confirmation, "they will be in a position to trigger [consultations] sometime quite soon," Freeland said.
"So I think that the process ought to now get moving. And we're enthusiastic about that. We're keen to sit down at the table with our American and Mexican partners and to modernize what has been a really trade agreement for our continent."
While Freeland says "trade is win-win," Canada and the U.S. face several trade disputes, including one over softwood lumber. American officials recently imposed a 24-per-cent tariff on Canadian softwood. Freeland says it's a priority issue, but points out it's only two per cent of overall Canadian exports to the U.S.
"What's also really important to understand about this is the United States needs our lumber. Their housing industry is really on a roll right now. The U.S. economy is growing, more houses are being built, and a way that you can choke off that economic growth is by choking off Canadian lumber exports to the United States," she said.
"A lot of Americans understand that. That's why the Wall Street Journal ... calls it the Trump housing tax. So I think we have a lot of allies in the United States. I'm confident that we're in the right and that we're going to prevail on this one."