Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Freeland to rejoin talks with US, Mexico after they agree to overhaul NAFTA

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will head to Washington on Tuesday to re-join face-to-face negotiations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will head to Washington on Tuesday to re-join face-to-face negotiations with the United States and Mexico on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Freeland, who will cut short a diplomatic trip to Europe to re-enter the high-level talks, is making the sudden change in plans after U.S. President Donald Trump announced Monday that the U.S. and Mexico had reached a bilateral trade “understanding” that could lead to an overhaul — or perhaps the termination — of the three-country agreement.

In making his announcement, Trump extended an invitation to Ottawa to join what he’s cast as American-Mexican trade negotiations, which have stretched through the summer without Canadian officials at the table.

Trump also threatened Canada that if it can’t reach a new trade deal, then he will slap it with devastating tariffs on automotive imports.

“We’ll start negotiating with Canada relatively soon, they want to negotiate very badly,” Trump said in the Oval Office, with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto joining by speaker phone.

“But one way or the other, we have a deal with Canada. It will either be a tariff on cars, or it will be a negotiated deal; and frankly a tariff on cars is a much easier way to go, but perhaps the other would be much better for Canada.”

Through an interpreter, Pena Nieto reminded Trump four times Monday that he hoped Canada would be part of an eventual trilateral agreement.

“It is our wish, Mr. President, that now Canada will also be able to be incorporated in all this. And I assume that they are going to carry out negotiations on the sensitive bilateral issues between Canada and the United States,” the Mexican president said.

Related: U.S., Mexico reach trade ‘understanding,’ door opens for Canada

Later Monday, Freeland spokesman Adam Austen said in a statement: “Given the encouraging announcement today of further bilateral progress between the U.S. and Mexico, Minister Freeland will travel to Washington, D.C., tomorrow to continue negotiations.”

Freeland was in Europe for five days of diplomatic visits to Germany, Ukraine and France.

Earlier in the day, Trump suggested he would terminate the 24-year-old trilateral pact with Canada and Mexico — a deal that has been critical for the Canadian economy — and replace it.

“When that happens, I can’t quite tell you, it depends on what the timetable is with Congress, but I’ll be terminating the existing deal and going into this deal,” he said.

“We’re looking to help our neighbours. If we can help our neighbours, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. So, we’ll start that negotiation imminently. I’ll be speaking with Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau in a little while.”

Trump also wants to re-baptize the trade agreement with Mexico.

“I like to call this deal the United States-Mexico trade agreement,” he said.

“I think it’s an elegant name. I think NAFTA has a lot of bad connotations for the United States because it was a rip off.”

Canada has been absent from the NAFTA bargaining table since trilateral talks paused last spring.

Observers have raised concerns that Canada’s absence from the talks could put Ottawa in a position where it might be pressured into accepting a less-appetizing deal reached between the U.S. and Mexico.

Trudeau has insisted his government will only sign a deal that’s good for Canada.

Following Trump’s announcement, Trudeau’s office issued a statement saying the prime minister spoke with Pena Nieto on Sunday about NAFTA’s renegotiation and ”shared their commitment to reaching a successful conclusion to this agreement for all three parties.”

Trump also called on Canada to negotiate fairly, especially when it comes to dairy products.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Student rangers sought for Terrace

Young adults interested in student ranger program have until Feb. 24 to apply

Skeena Sawmills audit good overall, but fault found in tree planting

Violation only issue discovered in Forest Practices Board report

DoK delays third reading of TSW land rezoning

Decision on hold until another public hearing is held

Is Terrace prepared for a rail disaster?

Council asked to review surge in dangerous goods movement: “I live in the blast zone,” says resident

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

Port authority imposes ban on development around Lelu Island

Following Pacific Northwest LNG, there will be no future projects proposed near Flora Bank

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

Most Read