Canada ‘not fazed’ at being left out of NAFTA talks

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) – Canada on Tuesday put a positive spin at being left out of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks, saying it is a good sign that the U.S. and Mexico are trying to work out differences between themselves.

The U.S. excluded Canada at NAFTA renegotiation meetings later this week with Mexico in Washington.

Some saw that as a sign that the Trump administration wants to play hardball, signaling that Canada must offer concessions if it wants to join in the free trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico.

U.S. President Donald Trump has mused on several occasions that he may kill the deal because it is a bad one for America and instead sign separate agreements with each country.

Some pundits even went so far as to say that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer did not like Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland talking with other American politicians, trying to drum up support for the deal.

Just last week, both Freeland and Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo reaffirmed that any new NAFTA had to include all three countries and could not include a sunset clause, where the terms would be negotiated every five years. Both said the uncertainty would scare off investors.

But two anonymous Canadian officials were quoted by Canadian media Tuesday as saying they are not ‘not fazed at all’ about only two of the partners at the renegotiating table this week.

“I actually feel somewhat cautiously encouraged by the fact that the Mexicans are able to be back at the table,” one official said. “I think the fact they’re able to carve out some space to pick up on the conversation from where it was at, without knowing the outcomes, that at least in and of itself is not a bad thing.”

The other Canadian official pointed out that last Monday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he thought negotiations were on a “pretty fast track” with Mexico and said the U.S. has fewer differences to resolve with Canada.

The two Canadian officials said Canada expected to be invited back to the NAFTA talks in mid-August.

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