US-Canada trade talks on revised NAFTA break up without deal

Negotiations between U.S. and Canadian trade officials for a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement concluded Friday without a resolution, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer confirmed.

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President Trump informed Congress that he will sign a revised pact with Mexico within the next 90 days, Lighthizer said in a statement. The trade representative added that talks with Canada were “constructive,” and will continue next week in a bid toward securing an agreement with Canada within that 90-day term.

“Today the President notified the Congress of his intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico – and Canada, if it is willing – 90 days from now,” Lighthizer said. “The agreement is the most advanced and high-standard trade agreement in the world. Over the next few weeks, Congress and cleared advisors from civil society and the private sector will be able to examine the agreement. They will find it has huge benefits for our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”

“We have also been negotiating with Canada throughout this year-long process.  This week those meetings continued at all levels. The talks were constructive, and we made progress.  Our officials are continuing to work toward agreement. The USTR team will meet with Minister Freeland and her colleagues Wednesday of next week.”

Trump has long decried the original version of NAFTA, which was established in 1994, as unbalanced and unfair to U.S. interests. During the 2016 presidential race, Trump described the treaty as “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere.”

Talks between U.S. and Canadian officials have been contentious. Earlier this month, Trump threatened to enact auto tariffs on Canada if the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

"We are looking for a good deal, not just any deal," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, "and we will only agree to a deal that is a good deal for Canada. We are not there yet."

The leak of off-the-record comments Trump made regarding negotiations with Canada clouded talks on Friday. The Toronto Star obtained off-the-record remarks Trump made in an interview with Bloomberg News in which the president admitted that he would not make compromises in order to secure an agreement.

“Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it. At least Canada knows where I stand!”

U.S. and Mexican officials reached tentative terms on agreement on Monday. The Trump administration had established a Friday deadline to reach an agreement with Canada.

The dispute between U.S. and Canada reportedly hinges on agricultural and media protection polices, as well as the installation of a system by which any of the three countries can challenge tariffs imposed by one of the others, the Wall Street Journal reported.