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US, Canada fail to reach accord on successor to NAFTA

Washington: Senior officials from the United States and Canada failed to meet US President Donald Trump’s Friday deadline for reaching an agreement on a replacement for the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trump announced earlier this week a tentative accord with Mexico on a successor pact to NAFTA and he gave Canada until Friday to decide whether to join that accord, Efe news agency reported.

“Today the President notified the Congress of his intent to sign a trade agreement with Mexico – and Canada, if it is willing – 90 days from now. The agreement is the most advanced and high-standard trade agreement in the world,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

News of the presidential notification came after days of negotiation in Washington between Lighthizer and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland ended without an agreement.

“We have also been negotiating with Canada throughout this year-long process. This week those meetings continued at all levels. The talks were constructive, and we made progress. Our officials are continuing to work toward an agreement. The USTR team will meet with Minister Freeland and her colleagues Wednesday of next week,” Lighthizer said.

Trump set Friday as the deadline to renegotiate the agreement as it gives the US Congress time to revise the proposed pact with Mexico, and because it provides leeway for the new trade agreement to be ratified before Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term in office ends on Dec. 1.

Freeland tried to strike a positive tone when she spoke to reporters at the Canadian Embassy after Lighthizer released the statement.

“We’re continuing to work very hard and we’re making progress, but we’re not there yet,” she said.

“As we said from the outset, our objective in these talks is to update and modernize NAFTA in a way that is good for Canadians, good for Americans and good for Mexicans. We know that a win-win-win agreement is within reach and that’s what we’re working towards. With goodwill and flexibility on all sides, I know we can get there,” the foreign minister said.

Freeland also highlighted the “good faith” that was shown by Lighthizer and his team during the negotiations.