August 31, 2018 6:51 am
Updated: August 31, 2018 7:51 am

NAFTA decision day: Canada, U.S. forge ahead with negotiations as Donald Trump’s deadline looms

ABOVE: Freeland and Lighthizer still working on details of NAFTA as Trump’s Friday deadline looms


WASHINGTON – It’s decision day for NAFTA negotiators in Washington — at least according to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Today is the day Trump has set as the deadline for Canada to join the deal the president has called a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

READ MORE: Trump says NAFTA deal ‘close’ as Canada, U.S. scramble to make Friday deadline

The tentative deal was unveiled on Monday by the U.S. and Mexico, prompting Canada’s chief NAFTA negotiator to fly to Washington to rejoin the talks.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says officials have been meeting around the clock all week in hopes of getting a deal done.

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The new round of talks has generated hopeful signals from both the U.S. and Canada, but difficult decisions remain.

Particular sticking points include Canada’s protected supply management for dairy, as well as the deal’s mechanism for dispute resolution.

READ MORE: Chrystia Freeland optimistic about ‘intense’ NAFTA talks

Freeland met for less than five minutes late Thursday night with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. She told reporters she “had a couple of things to say.”

Freeland came into the USTR building a total of four times Thursday. She and Lighthizer held the longest negotiating sessions since she arrived in Washington Tuesday.

Earlier Thursday, Freeland told reporters, “We continue to be encouraged by the constructive atmosphere that I think both countries are bringing to the table.”

WATCH: Former Mexican President Vicente Fox urges Justin Trudeau to make concessions to save NAFTA

On Monday, the United States and Mexico reached an agreement to replace NAFTA, a 24-year-old pact involving those two countries and Canada. But the new deal excluded Canada.

The foreign affairs minister hurried to Washington to try to repair the damage. She’s seeking to forge a three-country deal by Friday, starting a 90-day countdown that would let Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto sign the pact before leaving office Dec. 1.

“We’re working very intensively,” Freeland says.

WATCH: EU still has ‘profound disagreements’ with U.S. over tariffs amid trade war

–with files from the Associated Press

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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