Canada remains out of the room in ongoing NAFTA talks, and President Donald Trump says that is no accident.
“We’re not negotiating with Canada right now,” Trump said Thursday in a televised cabinet meeting. As the Financial Post reports, the United States is quite happy to get an agreement with Mexico first and then see what can be done with Canada.
“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 favor.”
Canada hasn’t been at the table for a month now as trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo continue their private NAFTA negotiations.
The Trudeau government — which has consistently turned off American negotiators with its social agenda of climate change politics, gender equality and labor rights — continues to argue that the bilateral talks between the United States and Canada are nothing to worry about because the two countries are resolving unique issues.
But that argument is increasingly being challenged in Canada as the clock ticks away with the Ontario government suggesting Trudeau’s domestic policies are hurting Canada’s chances at sealing a NAFTA deal.
Lighthizer is talking like a deal with Mexico is imminent: “I’m hopeful with Mexico, and then I hope once we get one with Mexico that Canada will come along,” he said Thursday.
Trump remains noncommittal as to when or if NAFTA will be a trilateral agreement.
“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, adding again that NAFTA has “been a disaster for our country.”