NAFTA: Lighthizer hints Mexico pact may need to be reopened if delayed

Fredrick Soto
September 27, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump says he rejected a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because he's upset with Canadian tariffs - but Trudeau's office says it never extended any invitation.

As the NAFTA negotiations are wrapping up, and after a successful renegotiation of the US-South Korea free-trade agreement, the Trump administration's focus appears to be shifting to trade talks with Japan.

He took aim at the country's dairy tariffs and reiterated his threat to tax Canada's auto industry.

During the NAFTA negotiations U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has acted as the lead official for the U.S. while Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has filled that role for Canada. "Our hope is that Canada comes along and joins that right now".

Talks have become increasingly hostile.

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.

And he warned the USA would soon go after Canadian auto imports.

Trump said Wednesday that Trudeau had sought a meeting with him during the United Nations General Assembly in NY, but Trump refused to participate because he doesn't like how Canada was approaching the trade discussions.

"We're thinking about taxing cars coming in from Canada", he said.

He did not rule out the possibility of a deal, but made it clear he had little interest in compromising. "If we made a deal with Canada - which, you know, a good chance still, but I'm not making anything near what they want to do".

"The fact is that Canada is not making concessions in areas that we think are essential", the USA official said.

'Canada has a long way to go. "We don't like their representative very much", Trump added. Trudeau's remarks at his closing news conference, where he called USA steel and aluminum tariffs "insulting" and said he would proceed with counter-tariffs, set off Trump and prompted him to revoke his support for that summit's closing statement.

"I'm not going to use the name 'NAFTA, '" he said.

In a direct attack on NAFTA itself, President Trump added: "I don't like NAFTA". It's been great for Canada.

Freeland said that the updated deadline for an agreement will be when a "good deal" for Canada has been reached. Supporters of Mexico's incoming government, which takes office December 1, are not especially fond of NAFTA, which is why both countries want the deal done before then.

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