A lot can happen in six months, maintained Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland this weekend when she was asked about increasing fears that U.S. President Donald Trump will pull the plug on NAFTA.
Speaking to The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos following a cabinet retreat in London, Ont., Freeland said repeatedly that Canada is still hoping for a successful renegotiation of the trade agreement.
But if Trump invokes Article 2205 of the agreement, providing the required six-month notice of withdrawal from the deal, Freeland said that’s not necessarily the end of the line.
“I think there is a lot of uncertainty about what would happen in that six-month period,” Freeland said.
“This would be the first time that the U.S. has actually withdrawn from a free-trade agreement, so there is a lot of uncertainty about what would actually happen.”
There has been significant debate over whether Trump could follow through, for example, without support from Congress. Canada is preparing for every possible outcome, Freeland maintained.
“I think it’s our responsibility as a government to take (Trump’s) statements very seriously and to be prepared for every eventuality, which we are.”
But the U.S. president has seemingly shifted his tone once again in recent days, telling the Wall Street Journal last Thursday that he’d be willing to put off making any decisions until after Mexico’s summer election.
Freeland, seizing on Trump’s comments, called the comments “a really constructive position.”
The next step will be another round of negotiations later this month in Montreal. Freeland said she’s hopeful that progress can be made on some of the more difficult elements of the deal.
“While we are prepared to work hard, if not harder, than any of the other parties — we do our homework, we come to the table ready to go — we really appreciate that trade deals and trade negotiations take a lot of time,” the minister said.
“I think that taking the time that it takes to have a good deal really makes a lot of sense, and I was glad to hear the president saying that this week.”
– Watch the full interview with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland above
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