NAFTA progress doesn’t stop Freeland from heading to Europe on diplomatic trip

Chrystia Freeland said it’s important for Canada to continue to do its work around the world

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will be travelling to Europe next week on a diplomatic mission that’s raising questions about whether Canada expects to return to the bargaining table soon for the three-country NAFTA talks.

Freeland said Friday it’s important for Canada to continue to do its work around the world — even with signs of progress in the bilateral NAFTA negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico.

“Europe is a very important one that I’ve been looking forward to,” she said, adding she will be meeting with the foreign ministers of Germany and France, as well as addressing the annual meeting of Ukraine’s ambassadors to show Canada’s support for its sovereignty and opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“Canada has key allies around the world given CETA, our trade agreement with the EU.”

There’s optimism that the U.S. and Mexico are close to sorting out their one-on-one sticking points, which would open the door for Canada to rejoin the negotiations.

Freeland was asked whether her European trip meant she didn’t expect a breakthrough next week in the NAFTA talks. She replied by saying Canada will return to the NAFTA table for trilateral talks once the American and Mexican governments resolve their bilateral issues — particularly their differences on automotive rules of origin.

“I do want to underscore that I’ve been hearing optimism from those countries about the progress they’re making and Canada is very sympathetic to the fact that these issues are very complicated,” she told reporters in Richmond, B.C.

“We want a good deal, not just any deal.”

Freeland didn’t directly say whether she would cut her European trip short if Canada is invited back to the table.

The Canadian Press

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