THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Trump team drops hints NAFTA end not imminent

Trump looks at renegotiation, not cancellation of NAFTA

Members of the Trump administration have dropped several hints in recent days that withdrawing from NAFTA is not in their current plans — and the latest such example came Thursday.

A congressional gathering heard Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin express some optimism about getting a deal. He based that on what he said were weekly meetings with U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer.

“I’m cautiously hopeful that … (he) will be renegotiating this deal,” Mnuchin told the House of Representatives’ budget committee.

“It is a major priority of ours to renegotiate the deal.”

RELATED: NAFTA survives key round: U.S. grumbles

He refused to even discuss the possibility of U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA when asked to do so. Republican lawmaker Darin LaHood pressed Mnuchin to analyze the possible consequences of withdrawal, something the Illinois congressman said would be a mistake.

”I would hate to see us shoot ourselves in the foot by withdrawing from NAFTA,” LaHood said.

”I look at those negotiations, and where we’re headed, that causes me a lot of concern.”

Again, Mnuchin reaffirmed his view that cancellation is not imminent: ”I don’t want to go through the consequences — because, again, that’s not our first priority. Our priority is to renegotiate the deal,” said the treasury secretary.

It’s the third such hint from a prominent member of the administration in recent days.

In a public meeting this week, Lighthizer said progress is being made in the renegotiation. He described the anxiety about a U.S. withdrawal as something in the past tense.

RELATED: Pipeline opponents vocal at Justin Trudeau town hall in Nanaimo

”There was a lot of anxiety at one point as to whether we would be in a position where we would have to withdraw in order to get a good agreement,” Lighthizer said, with President Donald Trump looking on.

”I think we’re making progress on NAFTA … I think we’re making real headway — in particular with respect to the Mexicans.”

Lighthizer has stated his view that negotiations have been harder with Canada. His relations with Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland have been bumpier, although a spokesman for the minister described their meeting Wednesday as “cordial and constructive.”

And in a closing news conference at the last round, Lighthizer described his Canadian and Mexican counterparts as friends.

Another Trump cabinet member also expressed optimism about NAFTA a few days ago. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he expects a NAFTA deal by year’s end.

Extending the talks into 2018 would have some drawbacks: Both Scotiabank and the Bank of Canada say uncertainty over the investment situation would shave about one-fifth of one per cent from Canada’s economy by next year.

RELATED: Trudeau government to table budget Feb. 27 as Canada faces uncertainty

This week also provided examples of the uncertainty in Canada-U.S. trade.

The U.S. opened an investigation into possible punitive duties on certain types of Canadian pipes — following similar moves on lumber, paper, and a thwarted effort to slap duties on Bombardier airplanes.

In addition, Trump made cryptic comments about an import tax — later played down by the White House. He also appeared to nod in agreement during a meeting as a Democrat called for Buy American provisions to be added to a major infrastructure bill.

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Freeland did not meet Lighthizer during her most recent visit to Washington.

Just Posted

Muralist on board for Revelstoke’s LUNA Nocturnal Wonder festival

One of Kris Kupskay’s next projects is a mural on a 22… Continue reading

Chance of showers may not be enough to rid Okanagan of smoke

Wind and chance of thunderstorms competing factors in this week’s forecast

UPDATE: Darke Lake residents under evacuation alert

Fire crews battling wildfire in rural community west of Summerland

BC Wildfire crew rescues lost puppies

They were just leaving the Monashee Complex of fires when they found the cutest creatures.

Casual memberships now available through the Kootenay Carshare Coop

The Kooteany Carshare Cooperative is now offering a new casual membership. Waving… Continue reading

Filmmaker captures the smoke that enveloped the Shuswap

Check out this video of the haze that blanketed Salmon Arm

Vehicle fire on the Coquihalla

Heavy congestion in north bound lanes

Cool Creek fire near Princeton grows to 6,900 hectares

The Cool Creek fire is threatening recreational homes in high elevation north west of Cathedral

Columbia Shuswap directors allocates cash to secure rail trail funding

Money will help create trail network on former Armstrong to Sicamous corridor

Prime minister greeted by B.C. premier as cabinet retreat begins

PM Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan meet in advance of federal cabinet meetings in Nanaimo

Are your kids anxious about going back to school?

BC Children’s Hospital offers tips to help your children be mindful and reduce stress

New trial ordered for James Oler in B.C. child bride case

Meanwhile, appeal court dismisses Emily Blackmore’s appeal of guilty verdict

This trash heap in Vancouver could be yours for $3.9 million

Sitting atop 6,000 square feet, the home was built in 1912, later destroyed by fire

Team Canada’s next game postponed at Little League World Series

They’re back in action on Wednesday against Peurto Rico

Most Read