U.S. President Trump threatens auto tariffs against Canada if trade talks fail

Canadian officials have insisted Ottawa hasn’t been sidelined during the U.S.-Mexico discussions

Donald Trump launched a fresh auto-tariff threat against Canada late Friday at a time when Ottawa finds itself in a holding pattern on NAFTA negotiations as it awaits the completion of one-on-one talks between the United States and Mexico.

In a tweet that appeared to reference NAFTA’s renegotiation, the U.S. president said the “deal with Mexico is coming along nicely” and that “Canada must wait.”

Trump then sent a warning to Ottawa: “Their Tariffs and Trade Barriers are far too high. Will tax cars if we can’t make a deal!”

But a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa won’t change course in response to the president’s message.

“Our focus is unchanged,” Adam Austen wrote in an email. “We’ll keep standing up for Canadian interests as we work toward a modernized trilateral NAFTA agreement.”

Bilateral NAFTA negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico have been building momentum in recent weeks after taking a break in late May ahead of Mexico’s July presidential election. The one-on-one talks are expected to extend into next week.

Canada, however, has yet to return to the NAFTA table this summer.

Some observers have raised concerns about Canada’s absence from recent high-level negotiations on the three-country trade deal. There have been warnings Canada could be put in a position where it might have to accept a deal reached between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Canadian officials have insisted Ottawa hasn’t been sidelined during the U.S.-Mexico discussions, arguing there have been lots of bilateral talks between NAFTA partners during the yearlong renegotiation process.

To complicate matters, the already rocky Canada-U.S. relationship has deteriorated since the partners suspended talks in the spring.

Trump slapped Canada and other allies with steel and aluminum duties, which led to retaliatory levies from Ottawa. He has also made repeated threats to apply far more damaging tariffs on the deeply integrated automotive sector. And in June, Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau very dishonest and weak” shortly after he left the G7 meeting in Quebec.

On Friday, his critical tweet about Canada made a point of praising Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“New President of Mexico has been an absolute gentleman,” tweeted Trump, who also wrote that autoworkers and farmers “must be taken care of or there will be no deal.”

Earlier Friday, a source familiar with Ottawa’s NAFTA effort said Canadian negotiators would not be returning to the bargaining table in Washington until the U.S. and Mexico find common ground on their outstanding issues, especially the complex sticking points around the auto sector.

If the U.S. and Mexico can resolve their bilateral differences in the coming days, the source said it’s “very possible” Canada’s team — potentially including Freeland — could rejoin negotiations later in the week.

Media reports said Friday’s NAFTA discussions between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo ended with bilateral work still to be done. On his way out of the meeting, reports said Guajardo indicated the two sides have made progress and will meet again next week to continue their talks for a fourth straight week.

“We continue to be in the same position where Mexico and the U.S. need to continue to work out their issues,” said the Canadian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

“The next obvious question is, do we have a firm date of Canada physically going to join the talks? And the answer is no, as long as the U.S. and Mexico have not resolved their issues, specifically auto.”

The source added that Freeland and David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., remain in regular contact with relevant officials from the U.S. and Mexico.

The U.S. and Mexican governments have both expressed optimism the entire NAFTA deal could be concluded before the end of the month.

MacNaughton said in an interview last week that predictions NAFTA can be settled by the end of August are “aspirational.” However, he added that he supports the effort and that Canadian negotiators are ready to work long hours to help make it happen.

Once Canada returns to the talks, the continental partners are expected to shift their focus to other tough, unresolved issues.

MacNaughton has listed some of those stubborn areas. He said they include dispute resolution, agriculture issues, intellectual property, government procurement, the proposed inclusion of a five-year sunset clause and the de minimis threshold, which is the maximum value of an item that Canadians can order from a foreign country without paying duties or taxes.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Kitten rescued from under school bus in Duncan

School staff have affectionately called kitten “Axle”

Lake Flashback: Sandy Berry is featured as our look back at Decembers past continues

WFI got a Christmas gift in 1978, but by 1993, some residents were in need of a police warning

Ship sinking in Cowichan Bay

As heavy rains fall and winds kick up waves, a ship was… Continue reading

VIDEO: Celebrate New Year’s Eve ‘Youbou style’ with Eagle Eyes, Joint Chiefs at this big bash

Music, friends, dancing, and fun: sounds like a great way to welcome 2019 for Cowichan Lake folks

Baby, it’s nasty outside: wind and rain will continue across Vancouver Island

Police warn drivers and pedestrians to use precaution during expected rain and winds

Omar Khadr wants changes to bail conditions

‘My life is held in suspension’, says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee

Coming up in Cowichan: Celebrate the second floor with the HUB

Celebrate the second floor this weekend at HUB at Cowichan Station Dec.… Continue reading

Sissons scores OT winner as Predators beat Canucks 4-3

VIDEO: Vancouver battles back to earn single point in Nashville

High streamflow advisory in effect across the Island

River Forecast Centre issues advisory as Pacific storms batter the coast

Trapped Vancouver Island crash survivor celebrates second chance at life

“Life is good now. It’s good to be alive.”

Lions announce seven members of coaching staff not coming back for 2019

The operational moves come two days after the Lions announced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

Coach accused of sexual assault says apology letter was misinterpreted

Dave Brubaker has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of invitation to sexual touching

Give the gift of nature this holiday season

Please don’t be mad, but I bought you a moose

Most Read