Canada’s Freeland Heading Back to Washington for NAFTA talks

September 17, 2018 Updated: September 17, 2018

OTTAWA–Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Sept. 17 said she would return to Washington, D.C. this week for fresh talks on NAFTA as time is running very short to meet a U.S. demand for a deal by October 1.

Freeland, speaking after a phone conversation with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, said a date for the latest round had not yet been set.

Although the two have met in Washington in each of the last three weeks, officials are still seeking common ground on major issues in the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We agreed we would continue to talk in Washington later this week … there are some conversations it’s better to have face-to-face and I think it’s absolutely the right thing for us to meet this week,” she told reporters.

President Donald Trump last month announced a two-party deal with Mexico and has warned Ottawa that he is prepared to leave Canada out if it fails to accept terms more favorable to the United States.

Washington wants the text of a deal by Oct. 1 so the pact can be signed by the outgoing Mexican administration. Canadian officials say that they will not be rushed, given the size of the obstacles.

The two nations are trying to solve differences over dispute resolution mechanisms and deal with a U.S. demand for more access to Canada’s protected dairy market.

Earlier on Sept. 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would stand up for the so-called supply management system of import tariffs and production limits that ensure high prices for dairy, egg and poultry products.

“We have been very, very clear–we will protect supply management,” Trudeau told the House of Commons.

That said, Canadian officials say privately that Ottawa will most likely offer U.S. producers more access to the market.

This alarms the powerful dairy industry, which requested a meeting with Freeland last week. She said the two sides had a long and good conversation but gave no details.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada lobby group did not respond to a request for comment.

By David Ljunggren