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US-Canada talks end in deadlock

September 1, 2018

The US and Canada's attempts at forging a new trade deal ended this week with few signs of progress. Negotiations were upended after a series of inflammatory remarks by President Trump were leaked to the Canadian press.

US President Donald Trump
Image: Reuters/K. Lamarque

Negotiations between Canada and the United States to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ended on Friday without a deal, missing a self-imposed deadline set by US President Donald Trump.

Following four days of high-level talks in Washington DC, officials from both sides appeared on track to reach an agreement, before leaked inflammatory comments from Trump threatened to upend talks.

Negotiations are slated to resume next Wednesday. Canada hopes to sign on to the US and Mexico's revised trade accord, thereby rewriting the 25-year-old NAFTA deal. The White House notified Congress on Friday of its "intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico — and Canada, if it is willing — 90 days from now."

US & Canada trade talks intensify

That means the Trump administration has 30 days before it must present the first full text of the new trade pact before Congress, giving it time to iron out the remaining details of a deal with Ottawa.

Any final trade agreement would still have to be approved by Congress.

Trump blasts media over leaked comments

Friday's talks took an ugly twist on Friday after it was revealed Trump had told Bloomberg news that he wasn't willing to grant Canada any concessions. The president said he wanted the remarks to remain off-the-record, otherwise "it's going to be so insulting they're not going to be able to make a deal."

However, Trump's comments were later leaked to the Toronto Star, prompting Trump to lash out at the Canadian newspaper's report.

"Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED," Trump tweeted. "Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it. At least Canada knows where I stand!"

Several officials in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government reacted furiously to Trump's comments, according to the Star.

Read more: Canada sets its own course in the face of the Trump administration

Nevertheless, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tried to brush off the leaks, telling a news conference "My negotiating counterparty is (US Trade Representative) Ambassador Lighthizer. He has brought good faith and good will to the table."

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says an agreement would mark a "win-win-win."Image: Getty Images/AFP/E. Baradat

Deadlock by dairy

Over the course of four days of negotiations, both American and Canadian signaled that agricultural policy, and in particular dairy, remained the toughest obstacle to overcome.

The Canadian government has long insisted that it intends to continue managing its dairy industry supply chains, much to Washington's ire. Canada's 11,280 dairy farmers make up one of the country's most influential political lobbying groups.

Ottawa, meanwhile, has demanded that any agreement includes a robust dispute resolution system, akin to what is known as Chapter 19 of the current NAFTA deal. The mechanism gives the US, Canada and Mexico the chance to challenge any opposite party's anti-dumping and countervailing duty decisions before a panel of experts.

'No country can be strong on its own'

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dm/aw (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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