President Donald Trump listens during a discussion for drug-free communities support programs, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Despite Trump deadline, NAFTA talks to resume next week

Any deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms,” said US president

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland gave a cold shoulder to U.S. President Donald Trump and cozied up instead to her American trade counterpart Friday as Canada’s effort to re-enter the North American free-trade fold fell short of meeting its end-of-week deadline.

With a pledge to resume talks next week, Freeland spoke of progress, of optimism and of her determination to get a deal that’s good for Canadians — a remarkable show of restraint on a day that began with another blast of now-familiar Trump bombast that landed like an anvil on the negotiating table.

Any deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms,” the Toronto Star quoted Trump as saying in an off-the-record aside during an interview with Bloomberg News.

“If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal,” he reportedly said, adding: “I can’t kill these people.”

Freeland studiously avoided talking about the remarks all day, never once mentioning the president by name during her multiple media appearances, including a long-awaited news conference at the Canadian embassy.

Indeed, whenever Trump’s name came up, she showered her opposite number — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer — with praise, suggesting the two of them are engaged in a joint effort to overcome their mutual impasse, regardless of what the White House might think.

“My negotiating counterparty is Ambassador Lighthizer and, as I’ve said, he has brought good faith and goodwill to the table,” she said when asked directly about Trump’s comments.

“I have now been working with Ambassador Lighthizer and his team for more than a year. We have had some very intense periods of working together and Ambassador Lighthizer and his team are very experienced professionals. And they absolutely do bring good faith and goodwill to the negotiating table.”

Pressed once more to talk Trump, she said curtly: “I’ll take the next question.”

Trump confirmed the authenticity of the Bloomberg News remarks in an afternoon tweet.

“Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED,” Trump wrote — ignoring the fact that the remarks were reported via an anonymous source by the Star, unencumbered by any such restrictions.

“Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it. At least Canada knows where I stand!”

Just prior to Freeland’s news conference, the USTR confirmed Trump had notified Congress that he intends to sign a trade agreement in 90 days with Mexico — and Canada, if Ottawa decides to join in. The talks are scheduled to resume Wednesday in Washington.

Trump, according to the Star report, said he frequently reminds Canada that if necessary he will slap painful tariffs on auto imports. Such a move, experts warn, would inflict heavy damage on the countries’ deeply integrated auto sector.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” he said. The Impala is built at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking at an event Friday in Oshawa, brushed off a question about Trump’s comments, saying that ”over the past year and a half there’s a lot of things that have been said from time to time.”

This week’s new round of U.S.-Canada negotiations had initially generated hopeful signals from both camps that a deal could be struck by the end of the week — but difficult discussions about dairy and dispute settlement persisted.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Canada’s dairy industry and has used the threat of tariffs on Canada’s auto production to push for concessions. But Canada’s dairy industry — backed by Quebec politicians of all stripes — is adamant that it won’t stand for the government allowing the U.S. any more market access, saying it has compromised enough on past trade deals with the European Union and Pacific Rim countries.

Another lingering sticking point is Chapter 19, set up to resolve disputes among the three countries and industry around how to implement NAFTA rules. The U.S. wants it out of the deal, but Canada says it must be included.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Fires still burning near Telegraph Creek

BC Wildfire Service assures residents of a proactive plan heading into wildfire season

Northwest entrepreneurs pitch their plans for cash prizes

ThriveNorth announces 12 finalists in this year’s business challenge

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Stellar musicians, performers recognized at 54th Pacific Northwest Music Festival

More than 150 awards, scholarships given out to Northwest B.C. participants

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

Northwest B.C. leaders divided over oil tanker ban

Senate hearings in Prince Rupert and Terrace show Bill C-48 is at a crossroads

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Most Read