Freeland says work on NAFTA will continue over summer
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says work on renegotiating NAFTA will continue over the summer, following a meeting in D.C. with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Speaking with reporters on her way out of the hour-long discussion with her American counterpart, Freeland said the main topics on the table were finding a path forward on NAFTA, and the levelling of tariffs exchanged between the two countries.
“It was a constructive meeting with Ambassador Lighthizer,” Freeland told reporters.
Freeland also said she spoke with her Mexican counterpart over the weekend, and that all three countries agree that they can keep working towards a deal on a modernized NAFTA, despite the upcoming Mexican general election.
“We can continue working now, and that we will be working hard over the summer,” Freeland said.
Specific dates for resuming talks have not yet been set.
Later Thursday, Freeland returned to Toronto where she met with Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford, who has pledged to support the federal government in its ongoing trade disputes with the U.S.
“Canada is playing as a totally united team,” Freeland said, standing alongside Ford at a press conference.
“We’re stronger together than we are apart,” Ford added.
On Thursday, Ford also vowed to push Canada’s case with his American counterparts.
“I don’t think the governors realize that their number one trading partner (in) 19 states is Ontario,” he said at the press conference. “We’re number two to nine other states.”
Ontario stands to be particularly hard-hit if the U.S. administration follows through with a threat to impose a 25 per cent tariff on Canadian-made vehicles.
“Five hundred thousand people or so are directly or indirectly employed in automotive in Ontario,” Flavio Volpe of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association told CTV News Channel. “Mr. Ford knows exactly what’s at stake here.”
Gordon Giffin, who served as U.S. ambassador to Canada between 1997 and 2001 under U.S. President Bill Clinton, told CTV News Channel that recent negative comments directed at Canada from prominent U.S. officials have been incredibly unproductive for the NAFTA negotiations. Some of those comments he characterized as “gratuitous” and “out of line.”
“I think in order to get us out of this fix, if you will, it’s going to take less rhetoric and more negotiation,” Giffin said from Atlanta. “And there is negotiating to be done on both sides, frankly.”
Giffin believes that U.S. threats of further tariffs to Canada have “a lot to do with trying to leverage negotiations on NAFTA.” And although he believes Canada is within its right to publicly discuss retaliatory measures, he also thinks that negotiations need to take a more productive turn.
“Any impression that the U.S. is the only side that is staying where they started is probably a misimpression,” he said.
Still, Giffin is optimistic that NAFTA negotiations can be salvaged.
“I actually think that they’re going to get… back to work and spend time trying to see if they can work through this,” he said. “I think a successful NAFTA negotiation is just too demonstrably beneficial for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico for it to fail.”
Starting Friday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate will be meeting with parliamentarians in Ottawa.