NAFTA talks turn tense on day of deadline

Talks between Canada and the United States to update the North American Free Trade Agreement soured sharply on Friday after President Donald Trump reportedly said a pact would be on U.S. terms and Ottawa stood firm against signing “just any deal.” Zachary

Tense trade talks between the U.S. and Canada broke off Friday, missing a deadline set by the Trump administration to agree to an overhaul of North American Free Trade Agreement.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CHRYSTIA FREELAND, SAYING:

“We’re continuing to work very hard, and we’re making progress. But we’re not there yet.”

Pressure on Canada mounted after U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this week announced he’d reached a proposed trade deal with Mexico, threatening to cut Canada out of the 24-year-old trilateral pact that underpins more than $1 trillion in annual trade.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

“We’ll see whether or not Canada gets into it, otherwise we’ll do something separately. Or we won’t do anything, which is OK too.”

Canadian negotiators spent the week in Washington trying to find common ground on issues ranging from tariffs on dairy products to trade dispute resolutions.

But President Donald Trump’s own words may have undermined negotiators’ efforts heading into the final day of talks.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

“And I said, off the record, and I made a statement about Canada, which is fine.”

In off-the-record comments on Thursday, Trump told Bloomberg News that any trade deal with Canada would be ‘totally on our terms.’

The Toronto Star first reported the remarks, and Trump confirmed them Friday.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

“At least Canada knows how I feel. So it’s fine.”

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland downplayed the impact of Trump’s remarks on the talks.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER CHRYSTIA FREELAND, SAYING:

“My negotiating counterparty is Ambassador [Robert] Lighthizer, and as I’ve said, he has brought good faith and goodwill to the table.”

Despite missing Friday’s deadline, U.S.-Canada talks are set to resume next week.

The White House on Friday notified Congress it intends to sign a revised NAFTA with Mexico, and will continue working to keep Canada in the agreement.

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