Negotiations between Canada and the United States to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ended on Friday without a deal, missing a self-imposed deadline set by US President Donald Trump.
Following four days of high-level talks in Washington DC, officials from both sides appeared on track to reach an agreement, before leaked inflammatory comments from Trump threatened to upend talks.
Negotiations are slated to resume next Wednesday. Canada hopes to sign on to the US and Mexico’s revised trade accord, thereby rewriting the 25-year-old NAFTA deal. The White House notified Congress on Friday of its “intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico — and Canada, if it is willing — 90 days from now.”
In public statements on Friday afternoon, both the US and Canada were keen to stress that the breakdown was only temporary, and the prospects of a deal coming together were strong.
“We know that a win-win-win agreement is within reach, and that’s what we are moving towards,” said Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, at a press conference. “With goodwill and flexibility on all sides, I know we can get there.” US president Donald Trump took a key procedural step in notifying Congress of his “intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico — and Canada, if its willing — 90 days from now”, suggesting Ottawa was still very much in the game.
Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, chimed in, too, saying the talks with Canada had been “constructive and we made progress”. The fate of Nafta, a 1994 pact that liberalised trade across North America, has been in limbo ever since Mr Trump’s arrival at the White House, after a campaign in which he vowed to renegotiate or scrap it. It is one of three fronts, on top of the tariff wars with China and tense trade relations with the EU, on which the Trump administration’s protectionist turn has threatened to be most disruptive to the global economy.