Canada still optimistic for new NAFTA deal

STEPHEN CROWLEY  NYT

"It's possible we won't be able to make a deal, and it's possible that we will".

Hosting the Canadian prime minister at the Oval Office, Trump said the U.S. had "a tough negotiation" over NAFTA ahead, which also includes Mexico, adding that it had to be fair to all countries. "We can have that discussion, but I really do think it won't be Mexico and Canada that are pushing back against the secretary, it will be a lot of Americans".

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau threatened Wednesday to cancel a major arms buy from the USA over a tariffs row, as talks on a North American free trade deal got off to a rocky start. "So we'll see what happens with NAFTA", Trump said, adding that it "has to be fair to both countries".

Pena Nieto's term is almost up in government and with Mexico one of the countries on Trudeau's priority list for stronger relations, one goal of this visit is to forge new relationships and cement Canada's standing in the eyes of Mexicans as a trusted partner in all things, not just trade. Levy said. "Or are they going to take this as a pretext and say: 'We tried negotiations; they failed".

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Trudeau would "explain really clearly to the President. that Canada is not America's problem". Trudeau said he recognized that there were proposals in the deal that the United States and Canada disagreed on, but insisted that the talks had begun on Wednesday "in good faith".

Trade was a touchy subject during Trudeau's visit to Washington, after the U.S. slapped a 220 percent retaliatory duty on Canadian planemaker Bombardier's CS100 and CS300 aircraft over allegations of dumping.

Advertisment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for meetings in Mexico today amid growing signs that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is in serious jeopardy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday accused Trump's administration of trying to sabotage the talks with "poison pill proposals", including demands for more favorable treatment for the U.S. side on auto production, and a "sunset clause" to force regular negotiations. In addition, the United States wants to add a new 50-percent USA -specific content requirement, something that was not in the earlier agreements.

Pressed over whether the NAFTA pact could degenerate into a series of bilateral deals, Trudeau said that his administration was "ready for anything and will continue to protect Canadian interests". "It makes sense to modernize it", said Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

In an e-mail, Mr Curtis S. Chin, a former USA ambassador to the Asian Development Bank and a senior fellow with the Milken Institute, a non-partisan economic think-tank, wrote: "With Nafta now more than 20 years old, it could well use some revisiting and updating".

NAFTA negotiators face tough new USA demands to increase regional content for autos to 85 percent from 62.5 percent, with 50 percent from the United States, according to people briefed on the plan.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned against so-called "poison pill" proposals by the U.S., including the sunset clause. Under the USA proposal, America would require more to be made in the country and less sourced from other members of the block.

Mr James Keith, a former U.S. ambassador and managing director for China and South-east Asia at Washington-based McLarty Associates, told The Straits Times that there is unlikely to be action on trade negotiations with Asian partners until Mr Trump completes a visit to South-east Asia and North-east Asia next month.

In an earlier statement, Mr Donohue said abandoning Nafta would create an "existential threat" to North America's national and economic security.

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