Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says she’s optimistic about the “intense” talks now under way in the accelerated search for a compromise on NAFTA while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it’s possible to reach a deal ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump‘s Friday deadline.
During a break in the high-stakes meeting with her U.S. counterpart in Washington, Freeland emphasized the “compromises” by Mexico in the bilateral trade deal with the U.S. to increase the wages of its auto workers.
She’s suggesting that bodes well for progress but she cautions much more work needs to be done.
Freeland has credited the Mexicans for their difficult decision to compromise on labour and wages as part of its auto rules of origin talks with the U-S, saying that has cleared the way for more substantive talks between Washington and Ottawa.
Freeland says the higher Mexican wages will result in “better conditions for working people in Canada and also in the United States in high wage countries.”
Trump announced the deal with Mexico on Monday and has pressured Ottawa to join the new agreement by Friday – otherwise he says he will impose devastating tariffs on Canada’s auto sector.
Speaking in northern Ontario, Trudeau said there’s a chance a deal could be reached by Friday.
“We recognize that there is a possibility of getting there by Friday, but it is only a possibility, because it will hinge on whether or not there is ultimately a good deal for Canada,” he said at a press conference. “No NAFTA deal is better than a bad NAFTA deal.”
There are now big questions about whether Canada is willing to open up access to its controversial supply-managed dairy market or if it will back away from its hard line to preserve NAFTA’s dispute settlement system.
The U.S. has demanded that Canada move off its line on both issues as well as others.
When pressed by reporters, Freeland would not provide details of what Canada might be putting on the table, saying she and Lighthizer have agreed not to negotiate in public.