(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Freeland to break from NAFTA talks to make announcement at embassy

According to the U.S. trade representative’s office there have been no concessions by Canada on agriculture

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is set to make an announcement on the state of the NAFTA talks later this afternoon at the Canadian embassy in Washington.

The minister is expected to announce that her intense days-long talks with her American counterpart are progressing well, but that they will take a break for the long weekend and resume next week.

Throughout Friday, Canadian and American negotiators were showing few signs of budging on their most stubborn NAFTA positions — the day of President Donald Trump’s Friday deadline for a deal.

A statement from the U.S. trade representative’s office said Canada had made no compromises to the American side on the thorny issue of dairy-market access: “there have been no concessions by Canada on agriculture,” it read.

RELATED: Freeland takes high road as explosive Trump comments detonate in Washington

Similarly, Canadian officials told The Canadian Press early on Friday that expectations a NAFTA deal is imminent are exaggerated and premature.

Friday’s talks were coloured by Trump’s blunt assessment of the negotiations — spoken in confidence but leaked to the media — that landed with a thud on the negotiating table.

Trump, in a conversation Thursday with Bloomberg News, gave a dismissive off-the-record assessment of the Canadian position on major NAFTA sticking points that was leaked to the Toronto Star newspaper and published Friday morning.

“If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that, and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people,” Trump said of the Canadian government, according to the Star report, which cited an anonymous source.

Any deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms,” Trump was quoted by the Star as saying.

Trump confirmed the authenticity of the remarks in an afternoon tweet.

“Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED,” Trump wrote.

“Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it. At least Canada knows where I stand!”

Earlier, as word of Trump’s off-the-record remarks rippled through the media corps gathered outside the offices of the U.S. trade representative, a stoic Freeland maintained her diplomatic countenance, saying only that both the Canadian negotiating team and USTR officials were working hard to reach an agreement.

“We’re not there yet,” she cautioned.

RELATED: Canada, U.S. see common ground on autos as three-way NAFTA talks resume

Asked directly about Trump’s remarks and whether the Americans are bargaining in good faith, Freeland walked a diplomatic tightrope. In doing so, she tried to portray her counterpart, U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer, as a friend who’s also trying to get a deal.

“Ambassador Lighthizer and his team, throughout this negotiation, have been working really, really hard,” Freeland said.

“Our starting positions at the beginning were very far apart. I think, at this point, we know what each side needs and we’re working hard to find a way. My job is to find the deal that works for Canada…

“Bob and I joke sometimes that we could switch chairs we know each other’s positions so well. And we’re working hard to find that win-win space.”

Trump, according to the Star report, also said he frequently reminds Canada that if necessary he will slap painful tariffs on auto imports. Such a move, experts warn, would inflict heavy damage on the countries’ deeply integrated auto sector.

“Off the record, Canada’s working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala,” Trump said, according to the article.

The Impala is manufactured at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ont.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held an event Friday in Oshawa, where he announced a government investment towards the creation of new automotive jobs.

Trudeau was asked by journalists about the reports on Trump’s off-the-record comments. He replied that “over the past year and a half there’s a lot of things that have been said from time to time.”

He wouldn’t comment on the obstacles that remain and reiterated he won’t negotiate in public.

“I think people have noticed that our government’s approach is always to stay constructive, positive, to engage on the substance of issues and to demonstrate that we understand that the path forward is one of making sure that there’s win-win-win on all sides,” Trudeau said.

“We’re going to remain constructive, positive, serious and creative about what we do around the negotiating table… We are also going to be unequivocal about always standing up for Canadians’ rights and Canadians’ interests.”

Freeland has been in meetings all week with her American counterpart.

This week’s new round of U.S.-Canada negotiations had generated hopeful signals from both camps that a deal could be struck by the end of the week — but difficult discussions about dairy and dispute settlement remained.

Trump has repeatedly criticized Canada’s dairy industry and has used the threat of tariffs on Canada’s auto production to push for concessions. But Canada’s dairy industry is adamant that it won’t stand for the government allowing the U.S. any more market access, saying it has compromised enough on past trade deals with the European Union and Pacific Rim countries.

Another lingering sticking point is Chapter 19, set up to resolve disputes among the three countries and industry around how to implement NAFTA rules. The U.S. wants it out of the deal, but Canada says it must be included.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: YouTubers claim to be Kelowna display toilet ‘poopers’

RCMP can not speak to legitimacy of video, will be investigating

Couple shaken up after homophobic encounter at Kelowna mall

‘We’re not in the States; we’re not in some little hick town; we’re in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. And it still happens’

Rollover on Highway 97 in West Kelowna

Traffic on Highway 97 is backed up in the southbound lanes

Dog locks out Kelowna couple on 4th floor patio

Kelowna firefighters were called in to rescue the two people

Regional District of the Central Okanagan supports North Westside governance study

The RDCO will write a letter of support for the community’s restructure planning grant application

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Summerland Blossom Youth Ambassador Program to hold coronation

Event will be held by video as a result of COVID-19 precautions

Vernon shutterbugs capture rainbow

A rain event July 9 made way for a glorious sight

Pooch abandoned at Penticton doggy daycare suffered from oral disease

A fundraiser for Okie held by the BC SPCA surpassed its goal of $1,700

Summerland to allow in-person attendance at July 13 council meetings

Two meetings will be held at Summerland Arena Banquet Room to accommodate public

Fundraiser kicks off for Lake Country families displaced by house fire

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise $5K for those who lost everything in early morning blaze

Rescued hawk returned to Lumby skies

A rehabilitated Swainson’s hawk was returned to its Rawlings Lake habitat

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Most Read