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

Mouat grad Irons scores first CFL touchdown

Former Hawks star records major against Toronto on Saturday

Abbotsford council OKs bus-to-SkyTrain plan

Fraser Valley Express would begin running to Lougheed Station by start of 2021

Abbotsford sees first proposal for ‘stacked townhouse’ project

Sixty-six units proposed for McCallum Road, south of Highway 1

Fraser Valley Bandits lose ninth straight

Basketball team remains winless nearing mid-way part of season

Chilliwack judge veers from joint submission, bumps up sex assault sentence

‘I find the joint submission is contrary to the public interest and I’m rejecting it’

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

Grey-haired bank robber hit with dye pack in Langley heist

Police are looking for an older man who may be stained with dye

B.C. teen killed by fallen tree on field trip remembered as hero

13-year-old Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling and warned his friends

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

New Lower Mainland bistro caters to board game fans and families

Local food and games at every table is the formula for the new business

Most Read