Canada has rejected the idea of separate negotiations with the United States over NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement.
President Donald Trump wants to renegotiate the deal between the US, Canada and Mexico and has hinted he would take different stances with those two countries.
But speaking at an event in Mexico City organised by Canadian and Mexican business groups, Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said talks, when they happen, should be trilateral: “For me it is quite clear. NAFTA is a three-nation agreement. So the way to renegotiate a three-nation agreement is on a trilateral basis.”
Trump is preparing to submit to Congress his plan to renegotiate NAFTA, and could call for bilateral talks that analysts say would put smaller neighbours Mexico and Canada at a bigger disadvantage.
Champagne added: “The United States has not yet still made a formal notification to Congress about the issues and also about the timing with respect to the renegotiation of NAFTA. But what is important to acknowledge is that, as Prime Minister Trudeau said, we are prepared to sit down at the table. NAFTA is an agreement that was negotiated about two decades ago and has been amended already about 12 times.”
He suggested it could be modified to include areas such as e-commerce, which was in its infancy when the deal took effect in 1994.
The minister later met with Mexico’s economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo and the two together said NAFTA talks should be three-way and guided by a “win-win-win vision,” according to a statement from the economy ministry.
Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who is in Germany for the G20 conference, echoed his colleague saying that President Trump had told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that NAFTA can be tweaked, adding: “Our view is that something can always be improved, and as long as we focus on better outcomes for our constituencies, we can get to a good place.”
The United States and Canada face a different set of issues, such as lumber trade, compared with Mexico and the United States, where Trump is concerned about the US deficit with Mexico and the loss of factory jobs south of the border.