Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

Canadian officials have insisted they’re unfazed by being left out of the discussions

U.S. President Donald Trump is suggesting Canada has deliberately been left on NAFTA’s sidelines as one-on-one talks heat up between Washington and Mexico.

For four straight weeks, U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo have held bilateral negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement, while Canada has been absent from the bargaining table.

RELATED: U.S. President Trump threatens auto tariffs against Canada if trade talks fail

Canadian officials have insisted they’re unfazed by being left out of the discussions because it’s allowing the U.S. and Mexico to sort out tough bilateral issues, such as their differences on autos. They’ve stressed that there have been a lot of one-on-one talks during NAFTA’s renegotiation process.

But some observers have refused to buy that argument. They’ve said Ottawa’s partners have frozen it out of the critical NAFTA negotiations as a tactic and have warned that Canada could eventually be forced into accepting a deal reached between the U.S. and Mexico.

Trump appeared to feed that belief during a televised cabinet meeting in Washington on Thursday — on the one-year anniversary of the start of NAFTA’s renegotiation.

“We’re not negotiating with Canada right now,” said Trump, who has frequently complained about Canada’s supply-managed dairy sector.

“Their tariffs are too high, their barriers are too strong, so we’re not even talking to them right now. But we’ll see how that works out. It will only work out to our favour.”

During the cabinet meeting, Lighthizer told the room he’s hoping for a NAFTA breakthrough with Mexico in the coming days.

“I’m hopeful with Mexico and then I hope once we get one with Mexico that Canada will come along,” Lighthizer said.

The U.S. and Mexican governments have both expressed optimism the entire NAFTA renegotiation could be concluded before the end of the month.

But Trump insisted Thursday that he’s in “no rush” to make a deal.

RELATED: Trudeau says he can’t imagine Trump damaging U.S. by imposing auto tariffs

“If you don’t have a breakthrough, as you call it, don’t do the deal because it’s a lousy situation for the United States,” he told Lighthizer.

“We have much better alternatives than that, you understand? So, if you can’t make the right deal, don’t make it.”

Trump added that NAFTA has “been a disaster for our country.”

Asked about Trump’s remarks Thursday, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa’s officials remain in touch with their American and Mexican partners.

“Minister Freeland, Ambassador (David) MacNaughton and the Canadian negotiating team are in regular contact with their counterparts and we look forward to continuing these important discussions in the coming weeks,” Adam Austen wrote in an email.

“Our focus remains defending Canadian interests as we work towards a modernized, updated NAFTA agreement.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Newly elected Hope politicians took part in the Local Government Leadership Academy

The three-day event is aimed at helping new mayors and councillors navigate municipal politics

No records were beat, but Hope’s February temperatures aren’t average

Normally around 3C, the sub-zero temperatures made for both good and bad in the Fraser Valley

New Chilliwack YMCA was ‘worth the wait’ say visitors

Family Day will mark officially opening for new building, after sneak peek tours on Saturday

Opioid overdoses killing three people a month in Chilliwack

35 deaths in 2018 locally compare to 23 in 2017, 13 in 2016 up from about five per year before that

‘Just like Iron Man’: Calgary surgeon undergoes experimental spinal surgery

Dr. Richi Gill was in a freak accident on a boogie board during a family vacation in Hawaii

Deported B.C. man who came to Canada as a baby granted chance at return

Lee Van Heest was deported to the Netherlands in 2017

Homicide police investigate assault turned deadly in Surrey

60-year-old man died at hospital after assault

A Mother’s Wish: Ryan Shtuka’s mother wants her son to be ‘forever known’

‍‍‍‍‍“Let me tell you a story …. it all began with a boy named Ryan”

Sex abuse survivors to meet with Vatican summit organizers

Pope Francis has urged participants to meet with abuse victims before they came to Rome

Ex-FBI official: ‘Crime may have been committed’ by Trump

Andrew McCabe said FBI had good reason to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Most Read