WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration told Congress on Friday that it intends to enter into a revised North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and will continue working to keep Canada in the pact, with talks between the United States and Canada continuing next week.
While sticking points still remain between the United States and Canada, the decision to try and keep moving ahead with a trilateral deal is a significant win for supporters of NAFTA and an indication that the Trump administration wants to keep Canada in the pact.
“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,” Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, said in a statement. Lighthizer called the talks with Canada “constructive” and said, “Our officials are continuing to work toward agreement.”
The decision capped off a rocky negotiating session Friday, as the United States and Canada struggled to reach agreement on several key issues and President Donald Trump continued to disparage Canada and its trade practices, raising fears that the last-ditch talks to salvage NAFTA could falter.
The Trump administration had set a Friday deadline to strike a deal with Canada, threatening to move ahead with a bilateral trade pact with just Mexico if an agreement between the three countries could not be reached.
After several days of marathon meetings that seemed to presage a deal, the chances of such an agreement by the end of Friday began looking doubtful.
The United States and Canada will continue to negotiate beyond the Friday deadline. While members of Congress could theoretically object, they are unlikely to do so, since most are eager for Canada to remain part of the pact.
On Friday, talks between the United States and Canada remained deadlocked over several contentious issues, including Canada’s dairy sector; its rules governing movies, books and other media; and a mechanism for settling trade disputes between the two countries, people briefed on the talks said.