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

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Trauma and recovery cracked Wide Open in memoir

Local author D.M. Ditson writes about assault and the journey to recovery

Fat bike fun at Nipika

Cross River Ripper Race this Saturday, February 23rd

MLA working on health care access

Clovechok addresses numerous health concerns from constituents

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

People gather for funeral of seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

Traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

Sledder dies near Fernie

Fernie Search and Rescue was tasked by the RCMP to respond to a sledder in medical distress

Most Read