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‘We are not working towards a deadline’: Marc Garneau on Canada’s NAFTA approach

WATCH: Transportation minister and chair of the cabinet committee on Canada–U.S. Relations Marc Garneau tells Mercedes Stephenson that Canada will remain at the NAFTA negotiating table to get a good deal for the country.

Deadlines for the conclusion of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations between the U.S. and Canada continue to be set as readily as the negotiating parties continue to miss them.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau explains why the Canadian government isn’t eager to set an end date for the negotiations at all.

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“We are not working towards a deadline, we are working towards a deal that is good for Canada. We’ve said that from the beginning. We’ve been very constructive in these negotiations and we are going to continue to do so and we believe there is the potential to have a win-win-win for all three countries of the NAFTA,” Garneau said.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has been in negotiations around NAFTA for almost 13 months now. While the U.S. and Mexico have tentatively agreed to a revised trade deal, Canada has been reluctant to sign on.

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Garneau insists, however, that “this is the nature of negotiations.”

“We know each other’s position. We know the things that matter to Canada. We will make that very clear to the United States. They know our position, and we will stick to those positions because they are important to our country,” he said.

However, when it came to specific questions about whether Trudeau’s administration is willing to risk more tariffs on Canadian exports to the U.S. in order to maintain its promise of getting the best deal for Canada, Garneau offered few insights.

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“I’m not going to negotiate in front of the camera here. We have an excellent team of negotiators. They are negotiating this deal in the interests of Canada, and Canadians support our approach to negotiations with the United States,” he said.

Garneau also dodged a question on whether Canadians would still support the administration’s “no deal is better than a bad deal” approach if Mexico and the United States decided to move ahead without Canada.

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“Canadians have told us they want us to negotiate a good deal for Canada, and that’s precisely what we’ve been doing since the beginning,” he said.

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The text of the existing U.S.-Mexico deal is expected to be published by Sunday, and there have been fears that Congress would be willing to press ahead with the bilateral agreement if Canada can’t get a deal done.

Mexico’s new president-elect, however, said in an interview Friday that he has agreed to push the American side to make a deal with Canada.

Sources familiar with the talks say Freeland took part in a lengthy conference call Friday night with negotiators and their U.S. counterparts in Washington, D.C., who have been taking part in intensive talks all week.

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Freeland was set to speak at the United Nations on Saturday afternoon, but later swapped her slot for a Monday speaking time due to her involvement in an “intensive period of talks” regarding NAFTA, a spokesperson said.

NAFTA talks will continue throughout the weekend, and there are currently no plans for Freeland to head back to Washington, D.C., in the immediate future.

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—With files from the Canadian Press