Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave Canada's NAFTA-talks nemesis a gentle nudge Wednesday, saying U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted repeatedly that punitive American tariffs on steel and aluminum won't be an issue under a new North American trade deal.
Momentum appeared to have stalled last week in efforts to bridge differences between Washington and Ottawa in negotiations to rewrite NAFTA, which began past year. "It would be unfair to all the people that have been involved - certainly the USA workers, farmers and ranchers - to start a new negotiation with a new president of Mexico".
"I must be honest with you, we're not getting along at all with their negotiators", he said at a United Nations news conference in NY. "If Canada comes along later, then that's what will happen".
Well it could mean a US-Canada trade spat, auto tariffs and other problems.
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But Ottawa has resisted pressure to meet Washington's self-imposed September 30 deadline for agreeing to terms to revise the 25-year-old trade deal. "We are very much looking in a positive and constructive way to getting to a renewed NAFTA that will be a trilateral agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States".
"Canada's not making concessions in areas we think are essential", Lighthizer said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated he may be willing to jump on a deal with the USA and Mexico, but time is running out. "There are all sorts of opportunities for me to speak to President Trump, and that was not the time".
US automakers and congressional aides now believe a deal with Canada is not possible by the deadline, which they said would most likely prompt the United States to move ahead with a bilateral agreement with Mexico.
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Trump should submit the final version of the NAFTA deal by September 30 despite not meeting compromise with Canada.
Trudeau, who has repeatedly stated he would rather walk away from NAFTA than sign a bad deal, spoke before Lighthizer at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in NY and took a more cautious tone.
The three nations' auto industries are highly integrated and tariffs on Canadian cars would be hugely disruptive.
The Trump administration has said the text of an agreement is needed by Sunday to allow the current Mexican government to sign it before it leaves office at the end of November.
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"With Mexico, we're not going to say: "No deal" because of Canada", Lighthizer said. "I think our view is now we'll turn to that as a next stage".