Freeland vows ‘real push’ to seek NAFTA agreement over summer

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Freeland to make ‘real push over summer’ to negotiate NAFTA deal
WATCH ABOVE: Freeland to make 'real push over summer' to negotiate NAFTA deal – Jun 14, 2018

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with her American counterpart to restart seemingly stalled NAFTA talks on Thursday.

While no new date is set for further meetings, she said both had vowed to work hard at finding an agreement over the next few months.

READ MORE: Freeland says tariffs on steel, aluminum represent U.S. ‘putting its thumb on the scale’

“We didn’t set specific dates today,” Freeland told reporters from Washington following her meeting.

“We talked about following up, on setting up specific dates for meetings and that’s what we’re going to do. We did very much, though, agree … that NAFTA talks continue and that we’re going to make a real push over the summer.”

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Fact check on Donald Trump’s statements on trade

The visit by Freeland marked the first time a Canadian official had set foot in Washington since President Donald Trump let loose a Twitter tirade on Sunday.

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In it, he accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of making “false statements” in the closing press conference of the G7 Summit held over the weekend.

READ MORE: Timeline of Donald Trump’s war of words (and trade) with Justin Trudeau

Trudeau told reporters that, contrary to assertions made earlier in the day on Sunday by Trump, Canada would not accept a sunset clause in NAFTA.

Trump, notoriously averse to criticism, lashed out in response.

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#ThanksCanada: Americans pay tribute to Canada amid Trump attacks on Trudeau

He called Trudeau “meek and mild,” and threatened fresh tariffs on auto imports, despite the fact car parts cross the Canada-U.S. border roughly six times during production and such a move would have a significant impact on manufacturers on both sides of the border.

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READ MORE: Chances that Trump will impose auto tariffs ‘reasonably good,’ says U.S. trade expert

The threat came on the heels of escalating tensions over trade.

Trump slapped Canada, the European Union and Mexico with steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum exported to the U.S. market on May 31.

Canada immediately announced it would impose $16.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on more than 100 American products, including steel and aluminum.

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While Trump has said he views the tariffs as a bargaining chip to try and force Canada and Mexico to cave in NAFTA talks, Canadian officials have continually said they view the matters as entirely separate.

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Freeland repeated that sentiment on Thursday and said Canada intends to stick to its strategy.

“The Canadian strategy on tariffs was and will continue to be: we will not escalate and we will not back down.”

READ MORE: Amidst Trump trade dispute, Canada set to table bill to ratify Trans Pacific Partnership

Amid concerns over how talks on NAFTA are progressing, the government tabled notice on Wednesday that it will table a bill to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That 11-member free trade agreement with Asian countries is viewed as a bulwark against the uncertainty of continuing NAFTA negotiations.

That legislation is expected to be introduced within days, likely on June 19.

Meanwhile, another of the government’s hallmark trade agreements appears to have hit a speed bump.

READ MORE: Canada-EU Trade Deal Under Threat From Italy’s New Populist Government

Italy’s populist government announced on Thursday it will not ratify the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

While the agreement went into force provisionally last fall, all 28 members of the European Union must ratify the deal before it fully comes into effect.

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Italy said the agreement does not do enough to protect the specialty food products it produces.

Freeland was asked about the move by Italy on Thursday.

She said the matter had been discussed between herself and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the G7 Summit and that she remained optimistic for a resolution given how other countries opposed to the deal have been handled.

“I would also like to point out that this week has brought some good news on the CETA front because Austria has now ratified CETA,” she said.

“During the initial CETA process, Austria was one of the countries that we had to have some really good conversations with to bring them there. So I’m confident we will have full ratification in the end.”

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