U.S. President Trump threatens auto tariffs against Canada if trade talks fail

Canadian officials have insisted Ottawa hasn’t been sidelined during the U.S.-Mexico discussions

Donald Trump launched a fresh auto-tariff threat against Canada late Friday at a time when Ottawa finds itself in a holding pattern on NAFTA negotiations as it awaits the completion of one-on-one talks between the United States and Mexico.

In a tweet that appeared to reference NAFTA’s renegotiation, the U.S. president said the “deal with Mexico is coming along nicely” and that “Canada must wait.”

Trump then sent a warning to Ottawa: “Their Tariffs and Trade Barriers are far too high. Will tax cars if we can’t make a deal!”

But a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Ottawa won’t change course in response to the president’s message.

“Our focus is unchanged,” Adam Austen wrote in an email. “We’ll keep standing up for Canadian interests as we work toward a modernized trilateral NAFTA agreement.”

Bilateral NAFTA negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico have been building momentum in recent weeks after taking a break in late May ahead of Mexico’s July presidential election. The one-on-one talks are expected to extend into next week.

Canada, however, has yet to return to the NAFTA table this summer.

Some observers have raised concerns about Canada’s absence from recent high-level negotiations on the three-country trade deal. There have been warnings Canada could be put in a position where it might have to accept a deal reached between the U.S. and Mexico.

But Canadian officials have insisted Ottawa hasn’t been sidelined during the U.S.-Mexico discussions, arguing there have been lots of bilateral talks between NAFTA partners during the yearlong renegotiation process.

To complicate matters, the already rocky Canada-U.S. relationship has deteriorated since the partners suspended talks in the spring.

Trump slapped Canada and other allies with steel and aluminum duties, which led to retaliatory levies from Ottawa. He has also made repeated threats to apply far more damaging tariffs on the deeply integrated automotive sector. And in June, Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau very dishonest and weak” shortly after he left the G7 meeting in Quebec.

On Friday, his critical tweet about Canada made a point of praising Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

“New President of Mexico has been an absolute gentleman,” tweeted Trump, who also wrote that autoworkers and farmers “must be taken care of or there will be no deal.”

Earlier Friday, a source familiar with Ottawa’s NAFTA effort said Canadian negotiators would not be returning to the bargaining table in Washington until the U.S. and Mexico find common ground on their outstanding issues, especially the complex sticking points around the auto sector.

If the U.S. and Mexico can resolve their bilateral differences in the coming days, the source said it’s “very possible” Canada’s team — potentially including Freeland — could rejoin negotiations later in the week.

Media reports said Friday’s NAFTA discussions between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo ended with bilateral work still to be done. On his way out of the meeting, reports said Guajardo indicated the two sides have made progress and will meet again next week to continue their talks for a fourth straight week.

“We continue to be in the same position where Mexico and the U.S. need to continue to work out their issues,” said the Canadian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

“The next obvious question is, do we have a firm date of Canada physically going to join the talks? And the answer is no, as long as the U.S. and Mexico have not resolved their issues, specifically auto.”

The source added that Freeland and David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., remain in regular contact with relevant officials from the U.S. and Mexico.

The U.S. and Mexican governments have both expressed optimism the entire NAFTA deal could be concluded before the end of the month.

MacNaughton said in an interview last week that predictions NAFTA can be settled by the end of August are “aspirational.” However, he added that he supports the effort and that Canadian negotiators are ready to work long hours to help make it happen.

Once Canada returns to the talks, the continental partners are expected to shift their focus to other tough, unresolved issues.

MacNaughton has listed some of those stubborn areas. He said they include dispute resolution, agriculture issues, intellectual property, government procurement, the proposed inclusion of a five-year sunset clause and the de minimis threshold, which is the maximum value of an item that Canadians can order from a foreign country without paying duties or taxes.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Famed Syrian artist displays paintings created while living in refugee camps

Farid Abdulbaki’s ‘Between Two Worlds’ exhibit will be displayed May 24-26 in Victoria

Mighty Garage Sale offers boost to Metchosin groups

Metchosin Community Association holds annual sale on May 25 and 26

SidFest 7 ready to rock the Mary Winspear Centre

The Bankes Brothers and Madrona Drive headlining May 24 concert

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

Mad Hatter’s Ball offers laughs in support of Boys and Girls Club

Annual fundraising event features improv performances at McPherson Playhouse May 24

VIDEO: Horseshoe pitching association appeals to Greater Victora youngsters

Youth horseshoe pitching club offers fun for all ages, says GVHPA

Rescue crews still searching for Okanagan kayaker last seen three days ago

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Most Read