Canadian insiders remain cautious as NAFTA deal comes into reach

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Earlier this month a top Republican in the House of Representatives issued a serious warning: patience and time is running out for Canada to come on board a revised trilateral North American trade deal.

Four hundred and ten days have passed since Canada entered into North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations with the United States and Mexico.

The Canadians were "very badly treated" the United States in commercial matters, complained Wednesday to the u.s. president Donald Trump at a press conference on the sidelines of the Un general Assembly in NY.

A spokesperson for Trudeau told CTV News that "no meeting was requested".

Canadian government officials and outside stakeholders from industry and labour groups who were consulted throughout a weekend of intense talks said negotiators had made "progress" Sunday on key points that had been in dispute.

But the Canadian prime minister insists that he remains committed to the talks - and the prospect of a breakthrough.

They haven't said why, but it's likely to let Freeland focus on efforts to get Canada into a trilateral NAFTA deal with the US and Mexico, which sources say have intensified this week in the face of Monday's congressional deadline.

US lawmakers and business have urged the administration to keep Canada in the deal but the trilateral nature had been in jeopardy after Trump on August 27 announced he reached a deal with Mexico that Canada could join if it's willing to make concessions.

Indeed, analysts and insiders alike say the latest American-imposed deadline for Canada to join by Monday is not set in stone, and that there will still be time for the Liberal government to negotiate with the Trump administration after that.

Chrystia Freeland. Canadian officials insisted her relationship with the USA was "cordial".

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Other sources say Freeland, who was in Ottawa on Saturday along with US ambassador David MacNaughton, took part in a lengthy conference call Friday night with negotiators and their USA counterparts in Washington, who have been engaged in intensive talks all week.

Lighthizer has previously stated that he and Freeland get along well, calling her a "good friend" in response to press reports that he disliked her. "I must be honest with you, we're not getting along at all with their negotiators".

He has not ruled out the possibility of signing bilateral agreements with the United States and Canada, in the absence of a compromise for a trilateral agreement. According to those present, Craft described the Canadian ambassador as "articulate" and "smart". It is unclear, however, whether Trump has authority from Congress to pursue a revamped NAFTA with only Mexico, and some lawmakers say they won't go along with a deal that leaves out Canada.

The US and Canada remained deadlocked over various trade provisions.

Earlier Sunday, one of Trump's senior trade advisers, Peter Navarro, told Fox News that Canada's positions on dairy sector regulations and on worldwide dispute resolution remained among "several sticking points", but suggested that disagreements over digital intellectual property and certain pharmaceutical protections had been largely resolved.

Trump, who has already imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, has also repeatedly threatened to impose even more crippling levies on auto imports if a deal can't get done.

In June, the U.S. abruptly lifted Canada's exemption from steel and aluminum tariffs on the grounds of national security - a move which Trudeau described as "insulting".

Automaker executives briefed on the plans said Saturday they expect a final deal similar to the one reached with Mexico that would effectively cap Canadian vehicle and auto parts exports at a level around 40 to 50 percent higher than existing imports.

USA business groups oppose turning NAFTA into a bilateral deal because the three nations' economies have become closely intertwined since the original pact came into force in 1994.

A persistent threat of tariffs is "highly unusual in a trading relationship", Yussuff said.

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