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

Revelstoke city council brings forward proposed cannabis framework

Four bylaws amended that will allow retail sales and production in the city

LUNA Q&A: Revelstokian Nicolas Houle painting herons

See everyday spaces transformed in the night at the second annual LUNA… Continue reading

Reach a Reader: Help Revelstoke literacy association share the love of reading

October is the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy’s annual Books for Kids campaign

LUNA Q&A: Revelstoke Community Band

See everyday spaces transformed in the night at the second annual LUNA… Continue reading

Weekday weather update

A look at your Okanagan-Shuswap weekday weather for Sept. 24

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Don’t feed birds in the parking lot

Vernon wildlife control services owner says feeding ducks and geese, or any wildlife, is bad

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

Appeal pipeline decision but consult Indigenous communities, Scheer says

The federal appeals court halted the Trans Mountain expansion last month

Luxury Airbnb faces regional district scorn

An Okangan property owner is accused of performing renovations, renting the chalet without proper permits

Shuswap family raises awareness of need for better child cancer treatments

Young cancer patient doing her best to help others with the disease that hits one in 333 kids

B.C. electric vehicle subsidy fund drains faster than expected

Province adds another $10 million to incentive fund

Most Read