Canada welcomes Trump suggestion of NAFTA deadline extension

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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"In our opinion as business owners, if it's possible to conclude (the talks) in February or March, that would be very good news for Mexicans and for the markets", said Castanon.

Canada will host the sixth and potentially make-or-break round of NAFTA talks later this month in Montreal.

Among the issues the three NAFTA partners have been unable to agree on are proposed changes to the chapter on dispute settlement, the inclusion of a so-called "sunset clause" that would subject the deal to review every five years, and the automotive sector trade deficit.

This week, Canada launched a 32-page complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the USA, challenging American anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said today it's "no secret" the U.S. could signal its intent to withdraw from the agreement, since U.S. President Donald Trump has made that publicly known even before talks began.

But taking a tough stand is an approach the Americans can appreciate, International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne argued Thursday.

"When people see that you're firm, you get respect".

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"I thought that was a sensible suggestion from the President".

He added: "This is sending a message and I think it's important that we're going to be there to defend, obviously, our workers".

The Liberal cabinet is portraying Canada's decision to launch a sweeping challenge of USA trade practices as a show of strength, even as it prepares Canadians for the possibility that the government may lose its battle to keep NAFTA talks alive.

On NAFTA, Freeland said she remains optimistic that a deal can be reached.

President Donald Trump has said the United States would scrap NAFTA if the sixth round of negotiations, due to start on January 23 in Montreal, fails to yield results.

"When it comes to the more unconventional USA proposals, we have been doing some creative thinking, we've been talking with Canadian stakeholders and we have some new ideas that we look forward to talking with our USA and Mexican counterparts about in Montreal".

NDP trade critic Tracey Ramsey called on Ms. Freeland to clearly outline what the government means by a "whole-of-government" preparation for the potential termination of NAFTA.

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